In The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the setting is in the late 1800s on Grand Isle in Louisiana. The main character of the story is Edna Pontellier who is not a Creole. Other important characters are Adele Ratignolle, Mr. Ratgnolle, Robert Lebrun, and Leonce Pontellier who are all Creole’s. In the Creole society the men are dominant. Seldom do the Creole’s accept outsiders to their social circle, and women are expected to provide well-kept homes and have many children. Edna and Adele are friends who are very different because of their the way they were brought up and they way they treat their husbands. Adele is a loyal wife who always obeys her husband’s commands. Edna is a woman who strays from her husband and does not obey her husband’s commands. Kate Chopin uses Adele to emphasize the differences between her and Edna.
Edna Pontellier is not a Creole, so her relationship with her husband is difficult. In her husband’s eyes she has failed in her duties as a wife and as a mother to her own children. What Enda’s husband expects from her is never what she does. Leonce comes home in the middle of the night and talks to Edna while she is sleeping. Then he tells her that Raoul one of their sons is sick and tells her to get up and check on him. Edna had never really had the desire to have children but she did anyway. She was not a “mother-woman” because she would rather be alone sometimes; she did not feel she had to be with her children twenty-four hours a day. If one Edna’s boys “.took a tumble whilst at play, he would not apt rush crying to his mother’s arms for comfort; he would more likely pick himself up”(16). Enda never felt that she fit in with Creole society because she “most forcibly was their entire absence of prudery”(19). The Creoles’ would talk about things such as childbirth and would flirt with others and not mean anything. Yet Edna would never dream of talking about her childbirth’s with anyone or flirting unless she meant it. Creole women devoted their whole lives to their husbands where Enda was carefree and did as she pleased. She was carefree because she would go out onto the beach with only a sundress and a little hat on when she was suppose to be all covered up so she would not become sun burnt. Leonce was not pleased to see a sun burn on her body because he does not want his possession looking like a lower class. Adele who is very different from Edna acted different towards her children and her husband. Adele was a Creole woman who was devoted to her husband. Adele and her husband “understood each other perfectly.” If ever the fusion of two human beings into one has been accomplished on this there it was surely in their union”(93). Adele was a “mother-woman” because she wanted children every two years. She had already had three children and the forth was on its way. All Adele would think about all day long would be her children. If any of her children were to have hurt themselves, they would come crying to her and she would make them all better. Adele would always be sewing clothes for her children and talking about them. Sometimes she would wonder if she should leave the children behind and go somewhere with Edna. Adele was Creole so she fit in with the society and was not a prude. She would talk about things such as her childbirths, and was not afraid to read certain books that Edna would read without anyone knowing. Adele was not carefree because she always worried about her children and if her husband asked her to do something, she would do it right away. When she goes to the beach, she had “twined a gauze veil about her head and wore doeskin gloves, with gauntlets that protected her wrist” (27). Her skin is pale and shows that she mostly stays at home with the children and obeys what her husband has asked of her. Chopin uses Adele to show how a Creole wife should treat her husband and children because Edna is not Creole and does not treat her husband or children in the correct manner. Adele and Edna are different in many ways because Adele is part of the Creole society, a “mother-woman,” who always worries about her children and is a devoted wife. Edna is not part of the Creole society, she is not a “mother-woman” and never worries about her children. She is not devoted to her husband and strays from him at times. Chopin uses these key facts in Edna’s life to show how she is being to awaken to that fact that she is not happy where she is now and wants to change her life. This awakening may lead Edna to become more independent and become distant from her husband, Leonce.
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