Why is the novel called The Awakening?

The novel is called The Awakening because Edna Pontellier, the protagonist, undergoes a significant and multifaceted awakening throughout the novel. She first realizes her own unhappiness in her marriage, then that she is experiencing a sexual awakening when she feels desire for another man. Edna begins to see herself as an active person who can and should make her own decisions to further her own happiness.

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The novel is called The Awakening because the main character, Edna Pontellier, experiences a kind of personal and sexual awakening in the text; it is her story of transforming from a passive observer of life to an active agent who tries to take charge of her choices and her future. When the text opens, Edna is a wife and mother, someone who does not tend to think deeply about her life or her role. She does not act like a "ministering angel" or a "mother-woman" like the other mothers in her husband's native Creole community. Léonce, Edna's husband, has a vague sense of dissatisfaction with her difference, and this causes them to quarrel. Edna finds solace in her relationship with young Robert Lebrun, who falls in love with her, despite her married status.

Edna learns to swim, getting a taste of independence and freedom, and develops both romantic and sexual feelings for Robert, reveling in the idea of breaking free from her static, routine, and unfulfilling existence as a wife and mother. As she awakens, she realizes that she wants to leave her husband and run away with Robert, to live outside the law and outside marriage, but Robert is not as brave as she is and cannot abide the idea of being ostracized for abandoning all social convention. Edna realizes that the only way to preserve and protect her newly awakened self is to completely leave the society which would keep her caged, and so she takes off all her clothes (symbolic of society's rules) and swims out into the sea, alone, until she drowns.

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