What are the main conflicts in The Awakening by Kate Chopin?

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scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Like many literary works, The Awakening features internal and external conflicts.  The external conflict results mainly from Edna and society of her time period.  Edna has conflicting thoughts and beliefs about what a woman's role is; she wants her independence, but her society (19th century America) promotes women only in domestic roles.

The most significant conflict is Edna's own internal conflict.  While admittedly her internal conflict results from the beliefs and customs that society has imposed on her since birth, she naturally struggles with guilt and other emotions because of her relationships with her husband and children. 

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iandavidclark3 | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Though there are a few important conflicts in Kate Chopin's The Awakening, I believe the most significant conflict is Edna Pontellier's rebellion against the misogynist structures and customs of society. From the beginning of the novel, we see Edna growing increasingly dissatisfied with not only her marriage to her husband, Leonce, but also with the societal structures that confine women to the roles of motherhood and marriage. Some of the ways Edna rebels against these strict customs include developing a career as an artist and moving out of her husband's home toward the end of the novel. By doing so, Edna signals her desire to explore roles other than motherhood and to live a life of independence on her own terms. While this rebellion ends on a remarkably depressing note (the novel ends with Edna's suicide), it's still an important statement refuting the established patriarchy, and Edna's conflict with her male-dominated society is ultimately one of the book's most powerful messages.

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I think that the main conflict in this story, in relation to Edna, is external rather than internal. The whole point of the story is that she has begun to 'awaken', to become dissatisfied with her life so that she starts taking steps to remedy the situation, as she sees it. She is not really in conflict with herself but with others, with society at large. She may often feel and act vaguely, she may not have a clear view of what exactly she should be doing, but this does not spring from internal conflict or confusion. From early in the novel she has decided she doesn't want to fit in with society's expectations of her as a wife and mother any more. Therefore, her external conflict with the societal roles thrust upon her becomes the most important.To sum up, she wants to be her own person entirely and this, in the end, leads to her committing suicide, because she finds it is impossible to live the life of pure independence that she craves.

Another conflict in the novel is embodied in Mme Reisz: the conflict between art and convention. Mme Reisz, who appears as a rather lonely, embittered, and unglamorous figure, disdains society, ordinary life, and love as she pursues her artistic ideals of self-expression to the utmost. Edna is beguiled by her example for a time, but ultimately finds this path unsatisfying also. Edna does not want to dedicate herself exclusively to art any more than she wants to lavish her entire being on her husband and children (as Adele Ratignolle does). She wants to commit only to herself.

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tonytoner | eNotes Newbie

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ednas main conflict is an internal conflict man vs self. she is unhappy in her marriage and in her life. she wants out

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