Women’s role on society in 19th century is a complicated and frequently analyzed concept in our times

Women’s role on society in 19th century is a complicated and frequently analyzed concept in our times. Kate Chopin’s work The Awakening is a perfect example about showing what was expected as an ideal woman and their role as wife, mother and a typical housewife and Chopin’s criticism about the society’s norm about women and their lack of independence and freedom against society’s beliefs. There are many occurrences about the subject of Women’s role in society in The Awakening and this paper aims to reflect those ideas by giving examples from the book itself and other sources.
Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, mirrors the social and historical context about the role of women in 19th century and her thoughts and criticism through her character, the heroine of the novel Edna Pontellier’s point of view. Edna is the protagonist of the novel, and the awakening that title of the novel refers is hers. She is twenty-eight-year-old women living among Creole society and she is married with a New Orleans businessman and she has two kids named Etienne and Raoul. At first Edna seems satisfied with her role as a women, mother and wife that the society and her husband wanted her to be but later on she feels oppressed because of the strict traditions of Creole culture that is reflected trough the institution of marriage. In the patriarchal Creole society, a woman is expected to meet the society’s expectance as what is expected from the mother and women’s desires should be expressed by their motherhood. Later, Edna begins to fight against what society expected of her as it stated
But that night she was like the little tottering, stumbling, clutching child, who all of a sudden realizes its power and walks for the first time alone, boldly and with over confidence. She could have shouted with joy (Chopin 27).
and begins her journey of self-expression and her awakening.
Edna is a controversial character in her own right, but Chopin also wrote two characters that shows two types of women. One being Adele Ratignolle and the other being Mademoiselle Reisz. Adele Ratignolle is a character that represents what society expected from a woman in 19th century and she “is the ideal wife and mother who never experiences an impulse that deters her from the sole concern of caring for her family” (Kinnison 22). On the other hand, there is Mademoiselle Reisz that contradicts everything that is expected from a woman at that time and being two extreme sides of the representation of women, those characters portrayed as Edna’s options. One being the women, mother and wife that society expected from her and the other being independent, self-assertive women that contradicts what society expects from her and she choose to be like Mademoiselle Reisz.
Chopin also informs and criticizes 19th century society’s idea that women is a property that belongs to their husband. Because in The Awakening it is shown that Creole society regards women as a property to their husband, they only function as a wife and mother that should not have any self-expressive feelings and desires for themselves as an individual person. Edna rejects those expectations and begins a journey of self-discovery and tries to form her own identity by ignoring her social responsibilities and starting to paint again as she was doing while she were young and also she falls in love with Robert Lebrun and even had an affair with the town seducer Alcee Arobin while retaining her freedom from male domination and by doing those things she denies every rule that society descended upon her.
Self-discovery and liberty are also an important term when analyzing 19th century women in The Awakening because of Chopin’s representation of Edna and her desire to be liberated from her mother “women role” which Chopin coined the term in her novel. Edna’s desire to form a new and liberated identity as a woman because “she does not idolize her children or worship her husband and sees motherhood as an institution” (Arnautu 510). Chopin’s portrayal of Edna’s rebellious actions against her role of “mother women” in Creole society displays how senseless it was at 19th century America and her portrayal of Edna discredited Chopin among literary critics in newspapers such as St. Louis Globe Democrat and St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is a marvelous novel that shows the depiction of women’s role in 19th century America through the characters Edna Pontellier, Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz and reflects how women are seen and treated in 19th century America by giving examples from a Creole society about how women was seen only as a wife, mother and their husbands property who cannot express their own desires physically or emotionally and criticized those norms in her society by using the actions of Edna’s rejection of her role and falling in love with Robert Lebrun and having an affair with Alcee Arobin while trying to retain her own freedom and independence while ignoring her social responsibilities as a mother women and a wife.

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