as a comment on the 19th century American feminine predicament.
At the center of THE AWAKENING is Edna Pontellier, a woman of the 19th century who rebels against social constraint of that time and acknowledges her sexual desires. She does even more than just acknowledging she has the courage and the inner strength to act upon her feelings and desires. She has the courage to break all conventions of society and to discover her true self, to discover that she is more than just a wife and a mother, roles that society had given her. Edna discovers her identity as an independent woman and breaks through the roles assigned by the patriarchal society.
Victorian society was very strict and women's place was very clear. Chopin uses her characters to rebel against this strictness; her characters are passionate and unconventional women but none of them rebels as openly as Edna does. .
Feminism emerged as a social movement in reaction to the way women were treated in American society and against the inequality between men and women regarding their rights. Educated and intelligent women started to act together for a common cause: equality of men and women. They tried to raise consciousness of the discrimination taking place in society because of the way women were treated. .
In The Awakening, Chopin questions gender roles at the end of the century, but also shows that, because of years of conditioning, many women are unable to escape those roles by any satisfactory means. Instances of feminist ideas are found throughout the story creating a better image of what life was like for women at the end of the 19th century.
The Awakening opens in Grand Isle, a summer holiday resort where Edna is vacationing with her family. At this stage, we already get a taste of feminist ideas. When Leonce looks at his sun burned wife as a piece of his property that has been damaged, he is demonstrating male chauvinism at its height.