In Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening, what characters could be considered antagonists, and why?
- Edna Pontellier becomes increasingly antagonistic toward her husband, Léonce. Léonce, it is true, antagonizes Edna in one of the early chapters of the book, when he returns home from a night of drinking and gambling and accuses her of paying insufficient attention to the children. He also antagonizes her later when, back in New Orleans, he accuses her of paying insufficient attention to her social responsibilities. As the book develops, however, Edna becomes increasingly distant from, and antagonistic toward, her husband, as when she moves out of their home and also when she engages in romantic affairs with two other men.
- Those two other men – Robert Lebrun and Alcée Arobin, also have antagonistic feelings toward one another. Robert, in particular, dislikes the free-wheeling, amoral, indeed even immoral Alcée. Robert distrusts Alcée’s interest in Edna
- Ironically, for part of the novel, Edna is in a somewhat antagonistic relationship with Robert, the man she thinks she truly loves. When Robert realizes that his relationship with Edna is becoming too serious, he leaves the immediate vicinity and goes to Mexico. This sudden decision on his part annoys and vexes Edna.
- As Edna’s friend, Adèle Ratignolle, begins to realize that Edna is growing too fond of Robert and that Edna later has begun an affair with Arobin, Adèle becomes a kind of friendly antagonist toward Edna. It is largely because of warnings from Adèle that Robert decides to leave Edna, and it is Adèle who later warns Edna that she risks both her reputation and her relationship with her husband and children (especially the latter) if Edna continues her relationship with Arobin.
- Edna’s relationship with her visiting father, the Colonel, is not especially close, and although she gets along with him better than she had expected, he is an antagonist in the sense that he advises Léonce on her to handle women with proper masculine control.
- Ultimately, Edna comes to regard even her children as antagonists who may enslave her:
The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul's slavery for the rest of her days. But she knew a way to elude them.
- However, her larger antagonist (it might be said) is the social system of her period, which has helped dictate her marriage and the nature of her marriage and which is at the root of much of her sense of being constrained and unfree.
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