In Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening, the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, suddenly finds herself dissatisfied with her marriage and the conservative lifestyle that it allows. She gradually emerges from her semi-conscious state of devoted wife and mother to a state of total awareness and independence. In her newfound freedom, Edna discovers at least three ways of self-expression, revealed to her through the influence of others, that lead to the revelation of her long-repressed emotions and eventually to her death.
The Creole women on Grand Isle inspire the first mode of expression that Edna learns. Edna admires the women with which she is thrown together at Lebrun's, Adele among them, because they show her a part of herself that she has been lacking:.
A characteristic which distinguished them and which impressed Mrs. Pontellier forcibly was their entire absence of prudery. Their freedom of expression was at first incomprehensible to her, though she had no difficulty in reconciling it with a lofty chastity which in the Creole woman seems to be inborn and unmistakable. (Chopin 18).
Once Edna gets passed the shock of women speaking freely and sharing their emotions openly, she finds their frankness liberating. She realizes that she can "face her emotions and sexuality directly, without fear" (Ward 5). The Creole women prove to Edna that it is okay to speak and think about one's own feelings. With this knowledge she begins to "acknowledge, define, and articulate her emotions" (Ward 5). She also begins to "rebel instinctively against the narrowness of her upbringing, which has forced her to hide her opinions and criticisms" (MacDonald 2): "At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life "that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions" (Chopin 64). In short, Enda Pontellier begins to become an independent woman and starts to think for herself.