Discuss the relationship of Leonce and Edna in Chopin's The Awakening with examples.

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Payal Khullar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edna Pontellier, the protagonist of Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening, is married to Léonce Pontellier and has two kids with him. Léonce is a rich businessman who makes enough money for his family and, thus, fulfills his roles and duties of a father and husband.

And the ladies, selecting with dainty and discriminating fingers and a little greedily, all declared that Mr. Pontellier was the best husband in the world.

If we consider the ideology and mindset of people at those times, we can comfortably say that he belongs to the category of the perfect husband. In modern times, of course, the definition of a perfect husband or partner has changed drastically. And Léonce is nowhere close to being called a good husband.

We see that Léonce treats Edna as, well, just another possession he has at home. He doesn’t treat her like a wife or a love partner. Although he takes care of his family duties, he spends little quality time with Edna as well as his children. Edna lives quite a boring marital life and is always seen devoted to household work and children (which were, perhaps, the things of prime importance that women were supposed to do at the time this novel was written). Léonce, like a typical husband of that time, takes Edna for granted always. He doesn’t pay enough attention to her, and is mostly seen reading newspapers. Quite surprisingly, he does not really get concerned about Edna spending so much time with Robert. He, however, gets annoyed if Edna neglects her domestic affairs and duties.

He reproached his wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children. If it was not a mother's place to look after children, whose on earth was it? 

It is only when Edna meets Robert that she realizes what she had been missing with Léonce. She longs for passionate love and affection that Léonce fails to give her. We also realize that Edna misses an exciting sexual life with Léonce. So, we can say that Edna doesn’t share a happy and satisfied relationship with Léonce.

She could not have told why she was crying. Such experiences as the foregoing were not uncommon in her married life. They seemed never before to have weighed much against the abundance of her husband's kindness and a uniform devotion which had come to be tacit and self-understood.

laurto | Student

Edna is married to Leonce. Leonce is wealthy and he owns a business in New Orleans. He is considered to be a great husband in the community, because of all the gifts he gets Edna. Edna does not love him. Leonce expects Edna to not cheat on him and to stay by his side, so he does not question her about anything. These were things that were expected of a wife during this time, but Edna was not a normal wife. He acts like Edna is his property, instead of an actual person. Edna is from Kentucky so she does not fit in with the other Creoles, like her husband. This is evident throughout the novel.