I read The Awakening, and while I believe it is ahead of its time based on the date it was written such as women being sexually adventurous and strong-willed, however, I feel like I may have missed...

I read The Awakening, and while I believe it is ahead of its time based on the date it was written such as women being sexually adventurous and strong-willed, however, I feel like I may have missed something else with this book. Maybe I am over analyzing it. i WOULD like comments from an expert please, regarding as to whether there is something else I should have recognized or appreciated other than the story itself.  Thank you

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening certainly suggests that women, even within the historical context of the story, can opt to defy the status quo and the social expectation bestowed upon them. Edna certainly takes that step by moving into the "pigeon hole" and by befriending women who are equally willing to be themselves.

Mademoiselle Reisz, who is an unmarried and eccentric artist, prefers to keep to herself and her choices. This is a dramatic contrast to Adèle Ratignolle who represents the exact opposite of what Edna wishes to become.

This being said, you are correct in that liberation and detachment from a male-dominated oppressive environment is certainly a major theme.

Yet, in addition to the act of liberation, look deeper into the reason behind the wish of becoming liberated: these women have matured internally. They are psychologically different in that they can differentiate their wants from their needs. They are also willing to sacrifice one for the other.

It is clear that the most independent character from among the women in the novel is Mademoiselle Reisz. It is certainly arguable that, as a woman, Reisz may have had emotional, physical, and psychological needs. Yet, she sacrifices those needs for the want for independence. She also prefers isolation as a mean of personal freedom. In the end, her needs become her wants: she simply needs to manifest herself.

Edna is inspired by Mademoiselle Reisz. It is through Reisz that Edna begins to consider whether she (Edna) is the woman that she believes to be, or if she as something else lurking within

The very first chords which Mademoiselle Reisz struck upon the piano sent a keen tremor down Mrs. Pontellier's spinal column... Perhaps it was the first time she was ready, perhaps the first time her being was tempered to take an impress of the abiding truth.

Therefore, Edna's personal need is not necessarily the same as Reisz; while the latter gives up all sense of loss of sensitivity while the former wants to accentuate hers. While Reisz enjoys the peace of being on her own and with her art, Edna seeks to find the ideal of love as she used to feel it when she was younger.

Notice that there is a reason behind Edna's suicide: she realizes that her want of love and her need of love cannot happen the way that she expects; this is when she realizes that there is a deep hunger within her heart that cannot be satiated by Edna's immediate world. When she dies, she is basically giving away an unfulfilled life with the hopes of, maybe in a different state, she is able to find that intense emotion that she so desperately wants.

Hence, while the women do exhibit behaviors that are dissonant from the women who follow social rules verbatim, there is something much deeper behind such behaviors. It is not only because they want to challenge society; theirs are a combination of wants and needs that ultimately culminate in the drastic change of their lives.


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