Kate Chopin’s 1899 novel The Awakening depicts a woman’s struggle to find and to assert herself within the cultural constraints of late 19th century America. Chopin’s protagonist experiences a new sense of independence, of individual freedom and expression, shadowed by her sense of conflict and despair. [In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Edna Pontellier’s journey toward a new vision of her female self at the turn-of-the-century is chronicled and the importance of the feminine characters that influence this vision can be observed.] The protagonist’s response to the typical expectations of her gender leads her to have many internal and external conflicts. Edna’s awakening emanates from the eye-opening conversations she has with her friend Ad???le Ratignolle and the observations she has about the New Orl???ans Creole society. Clearly, Chopin’s text challenges and portrays the female experience of the late Victorian era, its limitations and its possibilities. The title of Chopin’s novel itself connotes a process of evolution, of change and transition. An “awakening” implies a transition between full consciousness and sleep. The awakening subject exists as if between two worlds, not fixed in either but in the process moving towards a unique one. These two worlds are embodied in the characters of Ad???le Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz. Chopin sets up a contrast between Ad???le Ratignolle, the perfect Creole wife and Mademoiselle Reisz, a single, free spirited pianist. Edna falls somewhere in between, but disapproves of the type of life her friend Ad???le leads. Madame Ratignolle is described as “the embodiment of every womanly grace and charm” (17) and Edna respects her for it, but she doesn’t try or wants to imitate her. To be feminine by traditional standards requires self-sacrifice as Madame Ratignolle does. But Edna wants to be womanly in her own way. She wants to keep her own identity, her goals, her artistry, and to live a sexua…
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