Even though it was written in the Victorian era, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening has several romantic qualities, especially with the main character, as she struggles between society’s obligations and her own desires. Chopin writes about a woman who continues to reject the society around her, a notion too radical for Chopin’s peers. Edna Pontellier has the traditional role of both wife and mother, but deep down she wants something more, difficult to do in the restricted Victorian society. The typical Victorian woman maintained her sphere which deemed “women’s personal lives center around home, husband, and children. (Victorian Women, p. 118).Order now
Women were supposed to happily accept this position in the home, and be satisfied. It never satisfied Edna, who always seemed out of place when with other women. She was a wife and a mother, but not the typical Victorian wife and mother. With regards to her children, “Their absence was sort of relief…It seemed to free her of a responsibility which she blindly assumed and for which Fate had not fitted her” (p. 18). Already she is revealing ideas uncommon in the Victorian era. She tries to maintain her roles, but it is very difficult for her.
As the story progresses, Edna focuses on her desires rather than what her husband wants. She refuses to participate in the traditional role given to her as a woman. The romantic notion of individualism comes out as Edna decides to go out on a Tuesday afternoon rather than receive visitors. When her husband finds out, he is extremely upset. “‘I should think that you’d understand by this time that people don’t do such things; we’ve got to observe les convenances if we ever expect to get on and keep up with the procession’” (p. 51). Edna disregards her husbands appeal to conform and continues to do what she wants.
Victorian society was not ready for a novel whose main character disregards the norm for her own happiness. The rejection Chopin received was mainly due to Edna’s rejection of the traditions and the adultery aspect of the novel. Edna, caught up in a loveless marriage, resorts to adultery to keep herself satisfied. Edna follows her heart rather than reason when she pursues Robert Lebrun. In revealing her love for Robert, her romantic passion is expressed. “‘I love you,’ she whispered, ‘only you; no one but you. It was you who awoke me last summer out of a life – long, stupid dream…Oh! I have suffered, suffered!
Now you are here we shall love each other, my Robert’” (p. 109). As the novel continues, Edna continues to feel trapped in the restricted environment and ultimately commits suicide to leave the world that will not let her leave her traditional role. Romanticism is evident as the novel ends and Edna completely rejects the Victorian ways. With Chopin’s ending, she creates an idea that her society can not accept. Edna tried to maintain her role as long as she could, but it became too much for her, and she needed to do the best thing. In her mind, that meant killing herself in the water which had no boundaries and restrictions.