Evaluate the ethics in the novel The Awakening.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Ethical conduct in Chopin's novel is poised between two precarious ends.  On one hand, individual freedom is something that defines ethical conduct.  Edna's basis of action is predicated upon her freedom and expanding it.  To a certain extent, she is of the setting that fully understands that happiness and freedom go together.  Her basis for ethical action is the enhancement of her freedom.  She does not necessarily engage in ethically wrong actions.  Perhaps, one can argue that her feelings for Robert might be improper, but there is little unethical that she does.  This is a result of the freedom basis to Edna's ethical conduct.  At the same time, the other polarity involved is social expectation.  Leonce is driven by social expectation.  His rebukes of his wife are not done on the basis or marriage preservation or repairing the weakened bond between them.  Rather, his criticism of her is based on social perception.  If one faults her for pursuing freedom as the basis for her ethical conduct, then it seems to me that an equal criticism can be made against Leonce for pursuing an ethical standard based solely on social acceptance and appreciation.  In the end, both characters choose their ethics based on what is most appealing to them.  Leonce is happy to pursue ethical conduct based on social understanding because it solidifies his role as the male who generates respect from others.  In her attempt to define herself and explore the true nature of her own self away from the stratified world of the social realm, Edna pursues an ethical stand predicated upon the expansion and development of individual freedom.

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