The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, tells the story of Edna Pontellier: A married housewife and mother who is on vacation with her family. When we fist meet Edna we only see her outer shell. She seems like a very devoted wife, a doting mother, a great friend, and a woman who is just passing through life without any concerns.
However, when Edna meets Robert Lebrun, a younger and charming man, she seems to have experienced for the first time in her life what it is to feel like a woman. Robert's attentions to Edna are not just superficial: It just so happens that the two may very well be kindred spirits who discover how much they have in common. This is altogether new to Edna, who has always viewed marriage and motherhood as expected events in the life of a woman. Little does Edna know how deep she has buried her true emotions under the facade of a virtuous family woman. It is this break in her routine that brings all that Edna once viewed as "life" down to shambles. There is where her awakening begins.
The internal journey of Edna Pontellier intensifies when she comes to realize that, unbelievably to her, she is in love with a man that is not her husband. Moreover, she discovers further on how empty and squalid her current marriage is. Her husband is not a listener, nor a romantic. He does not talk, nor take into consideration her true needs. He feels that Edna is a wife and mother: Not a woman.
Meanwhile, Edna's womanhood continues to grow intensely. She takes up painting, begins to meet with bohemians, and even realizes how much she dreads motherhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. She even moves out of her own home while her family is away and takes residence in a small place she called "the pigeon hole" to be able to meditate and feel life without the burdens that society imposes upon women. Her love for Robert intensified, making her realize how little pleasure she has experienced in her 28years. This leads Edna to lead a life of pleasure and passion as best as she can. She eats as much as she wants, paints, takes long swims in the ocean, has sex with yet another man (Arobin) just for the sake of it, and continuously rebels against her embarrassed husband.
However, in comes her tragedy: As a true Creole, Robert refuses to consummate a romantic affair with Enda, and leaves her for good. According to his final letter, he leaves because he loves her. This is when Edna realizes that, no matter how hard she tries to catch up with the life she never lived, she was awoken from her stale life way too late. When she retires to the sea, and takes a final swim completely naked, she is basically giving herself back to nature. She prefers to die as to return to a life that does not suit her spirit. Edna's suicide is the final step of a complete transformation. This is how this novel presents an introspective journey into the live, heart, and spirit of a common, but needy, woman.