In Kate Chopin's The Awakening, what is the doctor's view of marriage and childbearing?
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In Chapter 38 of Kate Chopin's The Awakening, Dr. Mandelet and Edna talk after the birth of Adele's fourth child. The experience has been unpleasant for Edna, even though she has given birth to two sons herself. She wanted to leave, but did not...
With an inward agony, with a flaming, outspoken revolt against the ways of Nature, she witnessed the scene's torture.
The incident "seized her with a vague dread." She did not feel well upon leaving Adele, who cautioned her to "think of the children!" Dr. Mandelet tells Edna that it would have been better if she had not been there for the birthing...
There were a dozen women she might have had with her, unimpressionable women. I felt it was cruel...
He feels Edna was not up to the experience emotionally. Edna states that one must "think of the children sometime or other..."
The Doctor asks when Edna's husband returns, and whether she will go abroad. She explains that Mr. Pontellier will return in March, and that she will not go abroad. She wants to be "let alone"—she insists that the only people who have the right to disturb her or make demands of her are the children, though she is not quite sure about even this. The Doctor then explains (basically) that a woman is manipulated into becoming a wife and mother—a "mother woman." Surprising for a man of that time period, the Doctor seems to understand Edna more than she (or the reader) might expect. The process of bringing women into marriage and motherhood—a trap, he infers—is based upon youthful illusions. Women are "captured" in this role, with little regard to the "consequences." As Edna struggles with the expectations of society—which are strongly at odds with her desires—she speaks to Dr. Mandelet, and he responds with understanding:
"The trouble is," sighed the Doctor, grasping her meaning intuitively, "that youth is given up to illusions. It seems to be a provision of Nature; a decoy to secure mothers for the race. And Nature takes no account of the moral consequences, of arbitrary conditions which we create, and which we feel obliged to maintain at any cost.
Edna agrees with the Doctor, as she explains that life before now was a dream—but now she is "awakened." While the Doctor is aware of society's expectations and sympathizes—even wants to help her—Edna is determined to pursue this new path that has opened before her: it will be of concern to society (for whom she has little regard), but she worries for her children.
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