In Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening, Edna Pontellier begins a journey of self-discovery. Pontellier is staying at a resort on Grand Isle in the summer. Her life appears to be unsatisfactory to her likings. Although to others, she leads a highly respectable life. Edna is married to a Creole businessman, lives in an elegant home in New Orleans, and has two lovely children and many friends. To Edna, however, her life feels like a struggle. During this struggle, Edna awakens from the slumber of southern femininity. Her death, at the end of the story, may seem a sudden, unfortunate ending to her charming life. In actuality, Edna's suicide becomes a victorious ending for Edna. Edna gains everything she longs for, including her independence. Chopin brilliantly incorporates clothing imagery and sleep patterns into the story to help Edna's path to freedom become clear. .
Kate Chopin's use of clothing imagery makes The Awakening an intense yet enjoyable read. Clothes are usually used for protection. Clothing preserves dignity. Edna, however, finds that clothing is constricting her. Garments restrict her from reaching the freedom and independence she craves. The bounding nature of her clothing is the reason Edna continuously sheds her layers. The removal of clothing lasts until she is fully awakened and has reached the self-independence she longs for. In the beginning of the story, Edna is fully dressed and carries a sunshade. Edna's attempt to protect her complexion shows that she is very much like the married Creole women of this time. As the book continues, Edna's awakening begins. One morning, when Edna and her good friend, Adele Ratignolle, are walking down to the beach, Edna is dressed somewhat differently than the rest. "She wore a cool muslin that morning-white, with a waving vertical line of brown running through it." Edna also wears a large straw hat, which sits on her head in no particular fashion.