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Published: 05-11-2019

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What do Children Symbolize in The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, explores the emotional and spiritual consequences of sexism in the early 1900’s. Throughout this time, ladies were legally viewed as the property of their husbands, and had been often shamed for things like sexual promiscuity, lack of dependence on a husband, taking up jobs other than homemaker, and failure to dedicate their lives to the lives of their young children. Although the process of childbirth and childcare is a very necessary thing for the continuation of the human race, it is depicted here in a adverse light, as a sign of entrapment, dependance, and conventionality. Even so, unlike several other concerns of sexual discrimination, the all-natural obligations of childbearing can't be reversed because they are innate, biological functions, providing this concept an crucial role in the central conflict of the novel. In The Awakening, Chopin makes use of kids to symbolize women’s inherent and unavoidable duties, in order to express the depth of their oppression.

All that the protagonist, Edna, desires is to be cost-free of responsibilities that other folks so frequently place on her shoulders. She wants to be entirely independent and to rely only on herself for the things she needs in life. The motive behind this desire stems partly from the oppression she faces from the members of her community concerning her kids, especially her husband, Leonce. As wife and mother, Edna is anticipated to base her entire existence about her children. When she fails to do so, her husband shames her, treating her as if motherhood is the only worthwhile identity for a lady to have. This is clearly due to the social and cultural pressures that had been the norm at the time. “For an upper- or middle-class lady to work is a -threat to her husband’s social status and self-esteem… For a lady of Edna’s social status to operate would imply that her husband is not successful” (Muirhead). These pressures take effect when Leonce claims that Edna has exhibited “habitual neglect of the children” (Chopin five), soon after she does not maintain a close sufficient watch on her ill son. Straight soon after this altercation, Edna feels as though there was a weight placed on her the weight of unfair societal expectations for her priorities. Having her recognize defined as the type of mother that she is makes her really feel worthless to everyone apart from her two kids. This very same youngster-centered point of view is shared by Edna’s close friend, Adele. Nevertheless, as Edna’s foil character, Adele embraces the responsibility and by no means inquiries it. “The part of girls prescribed by the dominant patriarchal ideology is defined in relation only to marriage and to motherhood. It is embodied in Adele Ratignolle, whom Chopin terms the ‘perfect mother-woman’” (Gray). Adele’s lack of feminist willpower and desire for independence causes Edna to pity her, “… a pity for that colorless existence which in no way uplifted its possessor beyond the area of blind contentment…” (56), and further pushes her in the path of self-liberation. Edna steadily withdrawals from her previous life and forms a new a single, synonymous to a rebirth. She buys her personal residence, starts painting, explores her sexuality, all to redefine herself as a human rather than an object of Leonce’s possession, or merely a mother. During this period of time, nevertheless, she is unable to distance herself from her children, nor break the emotional ties that she has to them. Whilst Edna seems indifferent to each other aspect of her life (besides Robert), she becomes emotional when she is away from her children, “[I]t was a wrench and a pang that Edna left her children” (96). This reinforces the idea that, in the Victorian era, no matter how considerably independence a woman gains from her husband, her job, her buddies, she nevertheless can't escape the duty of kid-care. Edna’s conflict in choosing in between living for herself or living for her young children shapes the plot throughout the rest of the novel.

The most defining moment of the novel happens at the climax, exactly where Edna witnesses Adele in labor. This event arguably traumatizes Edna, top her into a deep depression. “Edna has protected herself… by cultivating an emotional and mental privacy which permitted her to contemplate the unattainable. But the sheer, inescapable reality of childbirth breaks into that space and roots her entirely to the here and now. A physical partnership has at final invaded her thoughts” (Simon). The scene, as nicely as the reference to Adele’s hair as a “golden serpent” (109), paints a picture of women’s most standard, primal nature, alluding to the story of Adam and Eve. In this story, Eve is punished by condemnation to painful childbirth for all women to come for eternity. “To the woman He stated, ‘I will tremendously multiply your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth young children However your wish will be for your husband, And he will rule more than you’” (New American Standard Bible. Genesis three:16). Viewing God as the highest, most potent being, painful childbirth is primarily unavoidable, particularly in the course of the Victorian era with lack of contemporary medicine. Edna describes the method as “torture,” and is painfully reminded of her own childbirth, which was seemingly not worth the torment, “…and an awakening to locate a small new life to which she had provided becoming, added to the fantastic unnumbered multitude of souls that come and go” (110). She starts to recognize that in rejecting childbirth and child-care, or in her opinion, oppression, she is also rejecting her own nature and biological womanly goal. She begins to really feel sick as she discovers the truth of her scenario: that she can't abandon her kids and live on her personal, which means that she will by no means obtain full independence. “Having built her complete existence about her wish for something transcendent, when her new connection with her children–forged at Adele’s birthing scene–penetrates and dissolves her illusory spiritual world, rather than continue without having it, Edna rejects life itself” (Simon). Adele exacerbates Edna’s guilt by saying “think of the youngsters, Edna. Oh think of the youngsters!” (111), in reference to Edna’s neglect of her children as a consequence of her independence and isolation from her preceding life of oppression. Adele’s words ring in Edna’s mind, and she is forced to finally face her conflict of youngsters versus self, ending in her suicide.

By the finish of the novel, Edna makes a choice relating to her conflict. This outcomes in her ultimate suicide as a implies of escape from societal pressures that she can't overcome. “Edna’s final despair derives from a paradoxical worry of entrapment (with her youngsters as the main supply of entrapment) and a fear that she will be left alone, without having authentic intimacy” (Ryan). Earlier in a conversation among Edna and Adele, Edna says, “I would give up the unessential I would give my funds, I would give my life for my kids but I wouldn’t give myself” (47). This tends to make the cause for Edna’s suicide fairly clear: she can not escape her responsibilities as a mother and for that reason could in no way live genuinely for herself. Since abandoning her youngsters was looked down upon, undertaking so would have ruined her two sons’ future reputations. While Edna did not want to care for her children any longer, she nevertheless loved them and would sacrifice her life for theirs. The alternative would be to accept her motherly responsibility and try to reside in oppression as one thing she is not. Just as Edna told Adele, she the would sooner die than give up herself, or her sense of identity and new life. “Ultimately… Edna Pontellier ends her life since she can not have it each ways: given her time, spot, and notion of self, she cannot be a mother and have a self at the exact same time” (Simon). Consequently, she staged her death to resolve her struggle and to complete her symbolic rebirth as a cost-free woman, “she felt like some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar globe that it had never known” (115).

All through The Awakening, children are observed as the topic of women’s oppressions and entrapment, symbolizing their intrinsic obligations as mothers. As the protagonist, Edna, redefines her life in practically every single aspect, she breaks via each of society’s walls of oppression one particular-by-1, beginning with her husband and ending in marriage. Her ultimate failure to overcome the expectation of childbirth and childcare is indicative that this is not a societal expectation, but a all-natural one particular. Because she can not humanly redefine woman’s nature, she decides that she can no longer be human, ending in her suicide. “Edna chooses suicide rather than a life confined by societal expectations” (Streater). This tragic story conveys the reality of life for several ladies in the Victorian era who have been the victims of sexual prejudice and oppression.
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