Please compare and contrast Edna from The Awakening with Daisy from Daisy Miller.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Edna Pontellier is the protagonist of Chopin's The Awakening, and presents us with a woman who earnestly desires more than her life and society has given her. As the novel opens we begin to see how Edna finds the restrictions on her life incredibly frustrating and she begins to desire something more than the conventional roles of marriage and motherhood that society has thrust upon her. This awareness is partly thanks to her relationship with a young, single man, called Robert Lebrun. As she spends more time with him, Edna begins to think more about her own desires and needs. Her learning to swim corresponds with this "awakening" that she experiences.

As the novel progresses, Edna defies more and more the roles that society has placed on her by distancing herself from her husband and refusing to receive and visit guests, finally moving out of her house to gain her freedom. However, this sense of freedom she gains quickly disappears when she realises the confining nature of society and her lack of options and limited ability to escape. Finally realising that she is unable to return to the roles she had so thoroughly rejected, Edna ends up swimming out into the sea and drowning herself.

Clearly we can see many parallels with the character of Edna and the character of Daisy Miller. Both, to varying degrees are rather presumptuous and hasty in the way that they try and reject the roles of society and ignore received cultural wisdom of the day. What is perhaps different about Daisy Miller is that some critics argue that she presents various traits of American nationality and identity. She, like Edna Pontellier, is a character that is very difficult to approach by thinking of her as being a heroine or a bad character. Daisy Miller is attractive in her joy of life and her innocence, but at the samme time he is very foolish in the way that she consistently ignores the advice of those who are wiser and more experienced. Daisy Miller in a sense is a character who wants both to have her cake and to eat it, as she wants the approval of society whilst desiring to have her independence at the same time. Her fate is a result of both her own choices and her own decisions to ignore the advice of those around her as it is the consequence of being socially rejected. Both characters therefore seek to live their lives in their own way, but with tragic consquences.

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