The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening by Kate Chopin The Victorian woman was the “old maid, fallen woman, and the angel in the house” (Claire Kahane, 5), all rolled into one. This same Victorian woman “captured the complicated effects of the era’s attempt to control the representation of women’s nature” (5). In the 1880’s, this “angel in the house” (5), this “ideal woman”, was challenged by what was called the “Novissima”, “The New Woman” who rejected marriage and motherhood and contested the boundaries of those separate entities. Edna Pontelleir in Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, is a woman that is way ahead of her time. She is a woman living through the Victorian Era, although without the many pretenses that most women at the time did. Not only did she not fit into the Creole role that her husband had set up for her, she was having a difficult time squeezing into the gendered role that he had established for her as well. Edna gradually “awakens” to the realization that she is a person and not the possession of her husband. She also realizes she is in an oppressive society and that she is no longer one of the mindless members of the majority, but an individual who’s passion conflicts the responsibility that society feels she should be dedicated to. Edna is thrown into the Creole society after her marriage to her Creole husband. This society abounds with “mother-women,” who idolize their children and worship their husbands. At this time, this “ideal woman” was the norm, and Edna knew she was different than this. Her friend, Madame Ratignolle was the perfect image of the ideal woman. She was pious, submissive, nurturing, and simply the image of domesticated perfection. Edna admires her friend, but cannot understand why anyone would want to see their husband or coo over their children so much. Edna and Madame Ratignolle are Chopin’s representations of the “Old” and “New” woman. The two women are e…

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