The novel tackles the inferior social status of women,
especially in the South. Wealthy women were seen as "trophy wives"
of their husbands, just as Edna is for Leonce. Women were expected
to marry, have children, and take care of the house, with no
thought of their own needs. Edna wants more, searching for
identity, creativity, and independence. Her challenge
to her husband's authority is also a challenge to the values
of the society in which she lived, for society dictates both a
husband's and a wife's behavior.
Leonce, Edna's husband, is very traditional in his beliefs and
values. He expects his wife to be devoted to him, their children,
and their social obligations. He's a respected and wealthy
businessman who can't understand why Edna isn't happy.
After all, he's given her everything a woman could want. He even
goes to his doctor so he can be reassured that this is Edna's
Edna becomes more assertive when she starts to open up to
others. After her vacation, she takes charge of her life, wanting
to feel love and appreciated. She finds freedom is hard to achieve,
not only from her husband, but in society also. She realizes at the
end that although she can't live her life for other people, she
can't live without others either. Society will never let her
attain her dreams and self-identity, and this is why she kills
herself. She can't go back to what she was, and society won't
accept her as she is.