Human beings are bound by the rules of society and have to lead their lives in accordance with those rules. The novel “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin brings forth the struggle of a married woman who is caught between her own desires and rules of the society. The protagonist of the novel is a married woman, Edna Pontellier who finds happiness in an extramarital affair. Edna falls for a bachelor, Robert. Robert also loves Edna but hesitates to express his love and ultimately decides to leave her so that they are able to forget each other. But Edna is unable to forget Robert and his thoughts make it impossible for her to live happily with her husband. So she starts to lead an independent life by removing herself from the world of her husband. When she again meets Robert, she tells me that now she is an independent woman and ready to lead her life with him. But when her friend and her doctor advice her to think about her obligations towards her family and children she realizes her selfishness and her powerlessness.
Edna feels her powerlessness when she is confronted by the fact that she cannot pursue her love for Robert and her obligation towards her children at the same time. Her affair with Robert has aided her in her awakening; she starts to accept her desires which defy the rules of the society. Her awakening results into an understanding of her true self but this understanding makes her to disregard the role of a mother and wife. The new role, as Robert’s lover, which Edna wishes to adopt in her life is so overpowering that she ignores her children. Her love for Robert is so strong that she is prepared to give up her family to unite with him. She openly expresses her desires and is least concerned about other’s thoughts, this is evident from her reply to Robert when he points out that her behavior will termed as unwomanly. “I suppose this is what you would call unwomanly; but I have got into the habit of expressing myself. It doesn’t matter to me, and you may think me unwomanly if you like.” (Chopin 106). Although Edna tries to convince Robert that they can lead their life together, Robert is unable to rebel against the rules of the society. And when Edna realizes that she has failed to liberate herself from the restrictions placed upon a woman by the society, she feels lonely.
She is disturbed by the thoughts of her children whom she neglected for fulfilling her own desires. “The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into soul’s slavery for the rest of her days. (Chopin 115). At the same time she is overwhelmed by the feeling that Robert was unable to understand her. Her awakening, which helped her in understanding her feelings and her desires, was now making her to suffer. She felt powerless before her desires and the limitations of the society. The rigidity of the society in which she was living in, made it impossible for her to fulfill her desires. Instead of living her life according to the expectations of society, she chooses to end her life and free herself from the restraints of the society. She ends her struggle by drowning herself in the sea.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Courier Dover Publications.1993.