Why is Edna unhappy in The Awakening?
In Kate Chopin's The Awakening, Edna Pontellier is an extremely unhappy woman because she feels deeply unfulfilled.
Edna married young, and while she thought Léonce Pontellier was a compatible match, she has discovered over the years that she married him without knowing much about him. They are not compatible, and she does not love him. Edna does not even feel much affection toward her two children at times. She certainly does not dote on them like some mothers do, and she believes that she is not cut out to be a wife and mother. She has been forced into the position that society expects of her, and she doesn't believe that it suits her. Therefore, she is unhappy and feels trapped.
Yet when Edna begins to branch out and become independent, she does not find true happiness either. Her affair with Robert Lebrun is linked with her “awakening,” as she falls in love with him. But Robert soon leaves her and goes to Mexico. Edna has tied too much of her newfound freedom to the relationship, and now she cannot fully find herself without him. She tries all kinds of things: painting, music, and gambling. She leaves her family and strikes out on her own in her own house. She carries on another affair. Yet Edna realizes that, no matter what choices she makes, there will be societal consequences that she cannot escape.
When Robert returns, Edna believes that she has another chance at happiness. But her lover leaves once more, realizing that Edna has grown too independent to his liking, and she turns to despair. She goes to Grand Isle and numbly swims out into the sea, feeling that this is her only option.