Character Analysis of Edna Pontellier.
The novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin describes the transformation of Edna Pontellier from a self-less, conventional, and passive typical Louisiana woman of the 1800's to a defiant, independent, and assertive individual. The novel describes a period in her life when Edna rediscovers her own identity and develops inner strength and courage to break through societal conventions in order to acknowledge and act upon her own passions and desires. Edna comes to realize that nothing, not her children nor her husband, is worth giving up her own self. Eventually, Edna conquers convention by committing suicide as a sign of integrity and independence. .
The novel begins with Edna, her husband Leonce, and her children on a summer vacation at the resort of Grand Isle. When they arrive at Grand Isle, Edna is in a sort of semi-conscious state. She is unaware of her own feelings because she is living a life where her own self is drowned by her responsibilities and social expectations. Since her marriage to Leonce, Edna has taken on the role of a traditional wife and mother and is seemingly very satisfied with her marriage. Edna, however, is not what society would call a "mother-woman- who "[flutters] about with extended, protecting wings- and desires nothing more than to serve and protect their families. Leonce's criticism that Edna is a negligent mother reveals that in addition to feeling trapped by society, Edna is also rebuked by society for parting from conventions. All around Grand Isle, Leonce is known as "the best husband in the world- and even Edna "admits that she [knows] of none better."" Edna can find nothing worthy of discontentment, especially when she is showered with "the abundance of her husband's kindness and [his] uniform devotion- for her. Before her transformation, Edna is very poised and controlled. She tries hard to follow society's conventions and doesn't dare to do anything outside of the norms like being intimate with another male other than her husband.