In The Awakening, what kind of mother is Edna?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Being a mother didn't come naturally to Edna.  Though she cared both for an about her children, she was not a particularly loving mother--and she knew it.  Our narrator describes her this way:

In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.

The obvious conclusion to draw is that Edna was none of those things, and we discover she rarely regretted it.

The foil (opposite, antithesis) of Edna's rather distant mothering was Adèle Ratignolle.  They became friends, and  Adèle assumed that more mothering role with Edna's children.

Even when they weren't vacationing, Edna was not a particularly good mother.

She made no ineffectual efforts to conduct her household en bonne ménagère, going and coming as it suited her fancy, and, so far as she was able, lending herself to any passing caprice.

When the house was being redone, she did not keep her kids with her.  In short, perhaps Edna was a good mother at one time; at the time we meet her, though, she was a mother who became more self-absorbed and selfish as the novel progressed. The Awakening is Edna's story, and her children seem to be nothing but hindrances which get in her way.

brunoismydog | Student

Painting evokes the passion that Edna lacks in her life. However, there are suggestions that Edna's art is somehow flawed. When she tries to make a sketch of Madame Ratignolle, we are told that the sketch is very good in some respects, but not a good likeness. Madame Reisz cautions Edna about what it takes to be an artist, the "courageous soul" and the "stronged wings." Edna also loves her children, however she would not give herself to her children but rather sacriface herself for them. She realizes that she has awaken to a society filled with limitations, therefore sees her only way out by freeing herself permanently form society.

nicole8923 | Student

Though Edna loves her children, she is erratic toward them, sometimes embracing them, at other times ignoring them. She realizes that it is her fate to be a mother, even though she is not particularly good at it.

Chantelm | Student

Edna isn't the best mother and she isn't the example of a 'mother-woman' which was the ideal woman of the time. She doesn't spend time with them or even care for them she has other people do it for her. She thinks about her kids and says she would give any material things for then but she says she won't give up herself meaning her dreams and goals for them.