Kate Chopin's novel, "The Awakening," focuses on Edna Pontellier, a woman struggling to find her true self while committing herself fully to being a wife and mother. In the process of this journey, she discovers that establishing her own personhood means losing a part of her identity as a mother. Edna looks to be the "brave soul," and a "soul that dares and defies" (Chopin 61). The male-dominated society she lives in (America, late 1800's) looks down on females who seek anything other than attending to their husband's and children's needs. Therefore, Edna is seen as rebellious and treated by some as an outcast. .
Near the beginning of "The Awakening," Edna's husband, Leonce, poses the question, "If it is not a mother's place to look after children, whose on earth is it?" (Chopin 7). In saying this, Leonce is reflecting the view of the masses - women should be mothers, giving up themselves for the needs of their children. He believes that women should be selfless, never taking from their families, but remaining the one in the household who's sacrificial. Leonce believes, just as other men during the Gilded Age, that Edna should be the "angel of the house," catering to his every need. .
Leonce Pontellier wants his wife to be one of the "ministering angels," (Chopin 9) who "idolized their children" (Chopin 9) and "worshiped their husbands" (Chopin 9). Edna shows little interest in taking care of her husband and children, and hints that she seeks more than living her life for the needs and desires of others. She begins to "recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her," (Chopin 14) and this revelation inevitably becomes a curse, creating a complicated conflict in her heart. Edna begins to ponder whether she should be defined as a mother and wife, or as a woman who is bold enough to create a personal definition for her life. .
Robert Lebrun is the man who Edna truly loves, and his persuasive personality helps her realize that life with her husband resembles a "masquerade"(Chopin 19) more than a marriage.