Personal Development in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

Modern people agree that a person can be satisfied or happy when their needs are met. Notably, this simple truth was widely accepted in earlier times as well. However, the way society saw the needs of an individual varied considerably throughout centuries and across the globe. For instance, development has been seen as one of the critical needs of any person. In the nineteenth-century United States, a good (and, hence, happy) woman was to evolve from a decent little girl to a nice lady, kind mother, wise household manager, and a beautiful wife. Kate Chopin questions this perspective in her novel The Awakening, stressing that this model is not appropriate for all females who may have different needs.

The protagonist of the novel in question, Edna, is a wife, a mother, and the one who handles household chores. She is regarded as an illustration of a happy female who has everything a woman may need or want. Nevertheless, the story of the main character shows that her needs were not confined to these aspects. She strived for freedom and self-realization that was not confined to her children or her property. Edna encountered bold women who were courageous enough to declare their needs and satisfy them. For example, Mademoiselle Reisz managed to realize her creative potential, and she was one of those who awakened Edna.

Edna was looking for ways to meet her needs and become happy by silencing her cravings. Unfortunately, once awakened, it is difficult to go to sleep again. Edna tried to find reconciliation with herself through her affection for Robert. For this woman, the man (or rather being with him) meant freedom for the protagonist. She understood that her female desires were the path to her happiness, but the man was not ready to go against society, making Edna miserable. She saw clearly that she could never escape from “the soul’s slavery” (Chopin, 2012, p. 650). The only way to freedom, as Edna believed, was death. The author shows that women find different models to meet their needs, with the majority of them, trying to adapt to social norms. In some cases, women choose other roads through self-realization and opposition to society or through death.

In conclusion, it is necessary to note that Kate Chopin in her novel The Awakening addressed an important theme responding to one of the pivotal questions. The author showed the pressure females had to endure in their strive for development. Women of the American South could hardly have a life beyond their families, no business, no art, no freedom with only some exceptions. The result of this pressure and inability to agree to these terms was often the death of a woman. Edna is an illustration of such females who choose suicide rather than the life assigned by society.

Reference

Chopin, K. (2012). The Awakening. In R. S. Levine & N. Baym (Eds.), The Norton anthology of American literature (8th ed.) (pp. 561-651). D. S. Brewer.