The Awakening Questions and Answers
by Kate Chopin

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In The Awakening, what kind of mother is Edna?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would describe Edna as a good mother, through the lens of 21st-century motherhood, though she is an atypical one; she's not the overly-nurturing and abundantly maternal type. She insists on having and retaining her own identity, despite her status as a mother, something which was rather unusual for a woman in the time and place when the novel is set. Each of her boys, unlike the other kids, would not "rush crying to his mother's arms for comfort" if he falls down; instead, "he would more likely pick himself up, wipe the water out of his eyes and the sand out of his mouth, and go on playing." The narrator says that the boys pull

together and [stand] their ground in childish battles with doubled fists and uplifted voices, which usually prevailed against the other mother-tots.

In other words, Edna's style of mothering is actually preparing her children more for the world than the mother-women's. Her kids can take care of themselves...

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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dr-fanning | Student

Edna can best be described as an unconventional mother. Much of what defines her character in The Awakening has to do with her rebuking of social norms. The novel is set at the end of the 19th century, which was a time when women were held to very specific social standards. The ways in which they mothered were included in these expectations. Much like we have certain expectations of mothers today which differ from those of our mothers and their mothers, Edna was expected to treat her children in the same ways that other late 19th century mothers treated their children. She was expected to always put her childrens’ needs first, to put her needs last, and to be constantly attentive and appreciative of her children. Edna’s unconventionality is best seen when comparing her to other mothers in the novel like Adele Ratignolle who represents the feminine and motherly ideal of the time. Unfortunately for Edna, her failure to meet late 19th century mothering norms also positions her as an uncaring and perhaps even unfit mother. As Chopin, herself, writes: “In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The motherwomen 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.” Clearly, Kate Chopin, the novel’s author, did not intend Edna to be conventional; her unusual approaches to mothering are one of the primary ways this is enacted in the novel.

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.

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.