Looking At Solitude In The Awakening English Literature Essay

“The artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies” (156). Edna Pontellier, the main character of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, under goes a spiritual and sexual awakening during the novel. Because of this awakening, she starts to seek independence from the Victorian and Creole traditions of the time. Even though this new independence of hers is innocent in nature at first, Edna soon begins to live the same lifestyle as Mademoiselle Reisz and starts to push away her family, such as Léonce Pontellier, her father, and her sisters, and her friends, like Alcée Arobin and Robert Lebrun, to keep this independence.

Soon, Edna Pontellier begins to willingly seek solitude from certain people in her life. One of these people is Léonce Pontellier, her husband. In her search for independence, Edna starts to distance herself from Léonce and ignore his customs and traditions. When they return from Grand Isle, Edna goes for a walk on Tuesday instead of receiving callers to help to better her husband’s reputation. When Léonce asked her why she left, she replied, “I simply felt like going out” (68). Also, when Léonce went to New York for business, Edna moved to a smaller house that she owned instead of continuing to live in the house that her husband owned. She bought the house using money she received from selling her paintings. Soon, Edna begins to distance herself from her family. When her father, the Colonel, came to visit Edna before the wedding, she was “not very warmly or deeply attached to him” (91). Before the Colonel left, she had a “warm, and almost violent dispute,” with him because she refused to attend her sister Janet’s wedding (96). Her father was also sure that her sisters would never talk to her again if she did not show up for Janet’s wedding. Even though Edna willingly separated herself from these people, she soon began to start to push away the ones closest to her.

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At first, Edna Pontellier’s search for independence leads her to making new friends, yet her newfound independence starts to push them away also. One of these is Alcée Arobin, a local figure who “possessed a good figure” and “a pleasing face” (100). Soon, Edna falls in love with him and eventually has an affair with him. This affair proves that she is now completely independent from the chains of tradition that had held her down for so long. Yet, even this affair cannot keep them together, for as soon as Robert Lebrun returns from Mexico, Alcée and Edna start to drift apart. Another friend unwillingly pushed away by Edna’s independence is Robert Lebrun. She was with Robert when her search for independence began, for it begins with Edna learning how to swim in the Gulf during the midnight bathing after Madame Lebrun’s party. Edna starts to fall in love with Robert, and Robert soon realizes this. Robert travels to Mexico to try to distance himself from Edna, but he cannot resist and eventually returns. But when he returns, he realizes that Edna doesn’t want to marry him like he wants, but wants to be free from any form of bondage such as marriage. After realizing this, Robert knows he cannot stay, so he again leaves from Edna’s presence.

By the end of the novel, Edna realizes that she is now completely alone because of her new independence. During her struggle to break free from tradition, Edna starts to lose herself in her emotions, until she can handle the loneliness and longing no longer. Because she knows no one would understand, she commits suicide by drowning in the Gulf, which is where her search for independence began. She realizes that no matter what, all those that she loves will eventually fade from her memory and she will be alone, trapped in the solitude that surrounds her.

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