In The Awakening, what examples can you give of Edna living the duality of inwardly questioning and outward conforming?

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote captures one of the central themes of the novel.  At the start of the novel we see several situations where Edna is outwardly conforming to the expectations of Creole society.  She tries hard to play the role of good mother and devoted wife.  She takes care of the children; she smiles dutifully at her husband; she fulfills her social obligations.  But, even after chapter 1, it is clear that Edna is consumed with inward questioning.  She is annoyed by her children; she doesn't understand the 'mother-wife' role; she doesn't care if she gets suntanned; she decides to ignore Leonce's command to come to bed.  By the time she has returned to New Orleans, she is full rebellion mode.  She questions her marriage and her responsibilities to her family.  She chooses to spend time away from the children, especially with Madame Reisz, whom she admires for the way the woman has been able to live her life on her own terms.  Edna has a romantic attachment to Robert and an actual affair with Arobin.  She leaves Leonce's house; she lives completely for herself.  Her questioning of her life and her choices is most frequently seen in her interactions of Reisz.  She is able to talk with her about the things that really matter to her: art, music, life, and Robert.  In the end, when she realizes that she can't have the life she really wants, she ends the duality of her situation by letting herself swim out too far and drowning herself.