Edna Pontellier was a literary figure on the edge when The Awakening was written. She evaded and questioned the normative roles of women in her upper-class new Orleans society. Edna's character was slowly awakened to being pulled in four archetypical directions: these archetypes include the marriage of the work-orientated and "bread-winning" husband and the ideal mother, the outcast "quasi-intellectual" feminist, the high-class society, and the true love. This pulling from the various archetypical, yet very human, characters and settings eventually allows Mrs. Pontellier to reject the norms of her society and become her own person.
The gradual breaking up of the pontilliers is a pillar in The Awakening. Cultural and social differences, life changing experiences, and a general dissatisfaction of the marriage all accumulate to end the bond between Edna and Leonce. Where once there was love, now lays resentment and an unwillingness to get along. This is apparent from the very first paragraph; Mr. Pontellier is oblivious to Edna's world, and he has no idea or interest in what makes Edna laugh or smile. His entire worries lie within the business he feels an overwhelming need to focus on. .
Leonce's attitude toward his marriage is a detrimental influence in Edna's dissatisfaction with life in general. As the story progresses, her growing unhappiness becomes more apparent to the reader. Mr. Pontellier's obvious influence over Edna is an indistinguishable factor in her having an early "mid-life crisis". Throughout the writing Chopin seems to almost exaggerate the fact that Mr. Pontellier has other things on his mind other than his wife. From the opening scene, Mr. Pontellier seems to treat Edna as a mere possession one can obtain "at his wife as one looks at a piece of personal property". Mr. Pontellier refuses to participate in any sort of activity with Edna, with a complete lack of concern.