In Kate Chopin's 19th century novel entitled, The Awakening, the idea of the "mother-woman" is seen throughout the novel. A mother-woman is described as a woman who would do anything for her loving husband and precious children. During the 19th century, the desired occupation for women was motherhood. In The Awakening, there are both a protagonist and an antagonist to mother-women. The protagonist is the lovely Adele Ratignolle, a loving and caring housewife. The antagonist is the flirtatious Edna Pontellier, a young, radical woman looking for adventure. In my opinion the ideal woman is a combination of both Adele and Edna. Even though I find both types of women to be acceptable, the 19th century society only agreed on one type of woman.
During the 19th century women were looked at as attributes to their husbands. Dorothy Hartman writes, "(during the 19th century) women's God-given role was a wife and mother, keeper of the household, guardian of the moral purity of all who lived therein." Women were expected to clean the house, take care of their children, look beautiful for their husbands, and nothing else. To some 19th century women this way of life was absurd and called for some change. This type of thinking lead to what Dr. Donna Wyckoff-wheeler describes as, "the 18th and 19th century "first wave" of feminism that focused on enlarging basic legal and property rights, gaining access to education and economic independence, and acquiring the rights to vote." Although some woman began to struggle for suffrage, economic opportunities, and civil rights, other women enjoyed being perfect wives and mothers. These "mother-women" loved to guard and care for their children and perform all that their husbands ask of them. In The Awakening, Mrs. Adele Ratignolle is the perfect example of a wonderful mother-woman.
Adele Ratignolle is the protagonist to the perfect mother-woman. She idolizes her children, loves her husband, and wishes to love and protect all people around her.