In The Awakening, how is Edna's father, the Kentucky Colonel, relevant to the story, and what is his role? How does the Colonel affect Edna's life?

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The narrator tells us that the arrival of Edna 's father "was in the nature of a welcome disturbance; it seemed to furnish a new direction for her emotions." However, "She was not very warmly or deeply attached to him," and this is what makes it so interesting that she...

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The narrator tells us that the arrival of Edna's father "was in the nature of a welcome disturbance; it seemed to furnish a new direction for her emotions." However, "She was not very warmly or deeply attached to him," and this is what makes it so interesting that she seems to serve him so willingly, performing almost the role that she is expected to play for her own husband. In fact, she would not allow a servant or one of her own children to perform any task for him that she, herself, could do. "It amused her" to wait on him hand and foot. She is not antagonized by him, despite the fact that he must be quite imperious—a former general in the Confederate army as well as a man who likely "had coerced his own wife into her grave" with his demands. Edna, who is completely unwilling to behave submissively toward her husband, Leonce, anymore, seems quite willing to take on this role for her father; perhaps it is because she chooses to do so. It entertains her to play this role—which she now clearly sees for what it is—because it is not expected. As soon as her father begins to make demands on her, namely that she attend her sister's wedding, they have an "almost violent dispute" about it. Perhaps, on one hand, Edna is still anxious to please him in some way, as a result of the inculcation of society's mores and the fact that he is her father, but, on the other hand, she rebels against any attempt to restrain her, including his.

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The obvious answer, of course, is that he's her father, so he's influenced her simply by living in the same household as her.  However, the picture we get of him is not a particularly pleasant one.  He's a man who enjoys drinking, tells rather outlandish stories of the past, likes to gamble, and believes women were meant to be servants to men. It's clear he treated his wife poorly, as Edna's husband assures us:

The Colonel was perhaps unaware that he had coerced his own wife into her grave 

Edna, rather than seeing him as a blustering bully, now sees him as something amusing, something to watch and listen to and enjoy.

She had not much of anything to say to her father...; but he did not antagonize her. She discovered that he interested her, though she realized that he might not interest her long; and for the first time in her life she felt as if she were thoroughly acquainted with him. He kept her busy serving him and ministering to his wants. It amused her to do so.

Edna's father serves as an example in The Awakening of how Edna has come to view all men, even the one who believes women are lesser beings, meant to serve, and who must have treated her that way throughout her life.  She has become independent and refuses to be subservient unless it suits her to do so. 

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