What is the role of community in The Awakening?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The role of the community is to enforce conformity to societal norms and expectations. This is of course what everybody acts to do when Edna makes worrying moves towards behaviour that falls so outside of the social norm. Societal expectations are so strong that Edna, even in her youth, becomes aware of two selves: "the outward existence that conforms, the inward life that questions." Her life up until her awakening is spent burying her "inward life" within her and ignoring those questions, and investing her energies in playing the role that her community expect of her. For example in her home, the elaborate system of paying visits is described and how cards were presented and Tuesday afternoons were the day that Mrs. Pontellier received visitors. When Edna decides to dispense with this formality, merely telling her maid to tell her visitors she is not receiving visitors, her husband responds in the following fashion:

Why, my dear, I should think you'd understand by this time that people don't do such things; we've got to observe les convenances if we ever expect to get on and keep up with the procession. If you felt that you had to leave home this afternoon, you should have left some suitable explanation for your absence.

Observing "les convenances," as Mr. Pontellier puts it, is something on which the community places a massive priority. The community then is seen as the antagonist, trying to prevent Edna from breaking free from society norms and encouraging her to perform her roles of mother and wife according to expectation.

laurto | Student

The community parallels society in general. This means that they enforce societal norms and expectations throughout the novel.