“How the little courtesies of life on the surface of society, deemed so important from man towards woman, fade into utter insignificance in view of the deeper tragedies in which she must play her part alone, where no human aid is possible.”--Elizabeth Cade Stanton. Discuss how this idea that women of the nineteenth century are forced to live in isolation from relationships, education, intellectual and social stimulation presents itself in The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

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This idea is presented in Chopin's novel through the central character of Edna, who feels the "deeper tragedy" of her life that she is forced to bear as a woman, and rebels against it, determining to live her life the way that she wants to, free from societal expectation and control. Note how this is expressed through the very powerful symbol of the sea. When Edna learns how to swim, and when she masters this skill, it is very clear that a strong and subtle bond exists between her and the sea. Consider the following quotation from Chapter 10:

A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before.

There is no accident in the particular wording of Edna's desire to "swim far our, where no woman had swum before." Edna seeks to live her life in a way that would free her from the prison of gender that has entrapped all other women of her age with the chains of motherhood, being a wife, and societal expectations. She determines that, after her awakening, she will live her life for herself alone, no matter what price she has to pay. The novel therefore demonstrates the truth of Elizabeth Cade Stanton's words through Edna's realisation and rebellion against the straitjacket of gender that oppresses her so greatly. 

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