All through mankind’s history, women have been subjected to play a subversive role in the society. It is not until recent times that enhancements in the rights of women have been attained. Individual citizens’ rights within the American society were a fundamental aspect in the formation of this nation (Deena 39). These “individual rights” were very essential that they had to be incorporated in the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence. Most of Kate Chopin’s works have made an examination of women’s identities, choices, as well as roles. Most of them express the feelings of women in relation to their societal roles. One such work is “The Awakening.” Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” addresses strong opinions towards the natural rights of women, as well as the role that the society’s conventions play in the protection or infringement of these rights. It as well provides several reasons in the justification of the society’s judgment.
According to Tabb & Deviren (87), “The Awakening,” written by Kate Chopin, narrates the account of Edna Pontellier; a woman who is trying to liberate herself in a society that is filled with restrictions. Chopin creatively creates Edna’s image by demonstrating her gradual rebellion to a society that places restrictions to the rights of women as individuals. “The Awakening” tackles the conditions that women faced within marriages in the late 19th century. In the text by Kate Chopin, Edna is presented as a focal point for feminism. Edna’s independence starts shining as she retreats from her husband and starts building her individual “social credit.” The main character in the text, Edna, is not satisfied with her life’s position of being a mother and wife too. She later considers leaving her marital home so as to pursue her quest for freedom, as well as the love of another man.
“Natural rights” play a significant role in the text “The Awakening.” However, the author, Chopin, seems to portray these rights as being taken away from women by the societal beliefs. Women in “The Awakening” do not seem to have “natural rights” as the society that Kate Chopin describes places a lot of restrictions towards them. Kate Chopin wrote the novel during a time when the revolution of The Women’s Rights Movement had started, around mid-1800’s (Clingstone 90). Before this time, both wifehood, as well as motherhood, was considered as the most noteworthy contribution towards the society. According to Tabb & Deviren, “the early law in Rome depicted women as children, and that they were eternally inferior in comparison with men” (213). Deena asserts “Whereas there was an emphasis on individualism in the American society, women in the same culture were conditioned in a manner that they were to accept both a passive, as well as submissive role” (23).
The society in the novel by Kate Chopin plays a significant role in the infringement of the “natural rights” of individuals, particularly women. The convention of the society’s life infringes the rights of Edna as an individual, as well as other women by placing boundaries along with restrictions, for instance, in terms of clothing. In the text, the clothes that Edna is to wear are very modest, which is very similar to her life. Edna’s clothes are a representation of a “cage” as she is supposed to conform to the society’s conventions. However, when she strips away her garments, Edna’s prospective rebellion against the society’s conventions is foreshadowed. For instance, she wears “a cool muslin…and a big-straw hat” (43). The dressing that she chooses defies her role in the society through revealing of her true self.
According to Deena, “The lack of respect towards the society’s conventions, which seem to be infringing on her individual freedom, is imminent all through the text” (123). At one point, she ventures into the ocean during the night after Ratignolle's party, where she appears as being at the climax in her quest for independence. Edna displays her pristine hobby before her friends by letting them watch her swimming into a new area of the water, hence finding a novel part of herself. By so doing, Edna is now “awakening” towards her independence as well as her female capacities, apart from cleaning as well as cooking.
In the story, Adele, who is Edna’s friend, is portrayed as being “good” in the society’s eyes, as she conforms to its conventions, as well as she embraces the role that the society has given her. Adele is the epitome of womanhood in the perspective of the society. In the text, Adele is portrayed as a wife as well as a mother, who prides in every job that the society expects her to do. She is also conforming to the societal dress codes. Therefore, the fact that she is considered as being “just” stems from her following of the restriction placed upon women by the society. Whereas it is apparent that Adele is happy as well as contented with her responsibilities, Edna is not happy with the same. Despite her efforts to break away from this slavery, Edna is strongly advised by those close to her that she may require very strong wings if she has to break away from the restraints that are placed upon her by the society’s expectations.
Among the reasons that were put forward to justify the society’s perception towards women were based on religion, as well as the nature. According to Harrington, “women were taught that their rights were sanctioned by God, along with the nature” (90). The attributes that were preferred in a woman included domesticity, faithfulness, purity, in addition to submissiveness. They were made to accept as true that everything would be lost in case they violated this restraining feminine convention that was set by the society.
In conclusion, Kate Chopin’s novel, “The Awakening,” captures the fundamental nature of the long struggle for the freedom, impartiality, as well as independence of women in the society. The novel is significant in its influence of the changing societal contexts on the perception of women. Edna goes through periods of profound introspection and identifies the suppressive aspects of her society, which brought anguish to her by sniffing on her desires as well as emotional requirements. Following the liberation of Edna from the restraints placed upon her by the society, she feels as if she is a newborn being. She wanted to gain independence from a man, and Kate Chopin’s novel portrays her as a champion for women’s rights. Edna refused to suppress her innermost desires as well as feelings, and decided not to let the society dictate her, but to be the captain of her destiny.
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