What is Edna’s relationship with her children in The Awakening?

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

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Edna's relationship with her children is something that is discussed at length in Chapter IV, when Mr. Pontellier tries to put his finger on why he feels Edna is not the kind of mother she should be. This sense of failing on her part as a mother was something he "felt rather than perceived," and was also highlighted by the way that they were surrounded that summer by women who he describes as being "mother-women." Edna is not one of their number, as the description of these "mother-women" indicates:

It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolised their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.

By contrast, Edna is not one of those women, and their children, when they fall over and hurt themselves, do not rush to her as other women's children do, but they merely pick themselves up and carry on playing. Although Mr. Pontellier is therefore not able to point the finger towards any definite dereliction of duty as a mother, the way that Edna is obviously so different from the other mothers with them that summer highlights that she has a very different kind of relationship with her children, and this foreshadows the way that she is able to leave them as she leaves her husband when she searches for her own independent lifestyle and sense of self.

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