The Awakening Essay – The Victory of Death
Not only do fictional characters in literary works of art mask their true inward life with their outward façade. Everyday, our society puts on many faces, their business face, their friendly face, happy face, and a face for a date, even a face of indifference. Why? We
all know the answer to that, as a matter a fact we all have different answers (or the same). It is either to hide or protect, or deceive. In The Awakening, Kate Chopin uses elaborate diction and intricate details to show the juxtaposition of Edna Pontellier’s outward and inward character to portray the necessity for equality between sexes.
For one, through the effects of light and the absence of it, Chopin uses this sense of sight to metaphorically symbolize the two different sides Madame Pontellier has in her novel. Whereas the shadows, the darkness, represented the forbidden desire for a woman (Edna) to have independence and be competent with men, the light was the epitome of reality. The use of darkness is apparent in page 52 when she casts down her “glittering circlet” in the darkness of her room with an explosion of hatred of the suffocating chains of marriage, her marital duties and obligations. Towards the end of the novel when she was at the beach on page 115 “gleaming with the million lights of the sun.” The choice to use million, an overwhelming number fits with Madame Pontellier’s overwhelmed emotion and the realization that she can not go on trying to clutch at the hems of independence. Chopin uses light as the social hierarchy and the reality that women are subordinate and dependent to men during her time. Meaning cooking for the men as they bring home the paycheck, looking pretty for them and accept that their opinion does not matter as much as the men’s. However, the night time is when she shows her desires, her rebelling to break from the chains of social conformity.
As Edna Pontellier moves back into the city after summer has passed two different sides of her finally emerge to the surface, as if each side were two separate people. Edna as a mother, can be referred from the behavior of her children on page 7 “if one of the little Pontellier boys took a tumble…at play, he was not apt to rush crying to his mother’s arms for comfort,” that she was distant with her children, only raising them half heartedly. It’s apparent that there is a lack of loving connection that ‘normal’ mothers would have with her offspring, and yet she doesn’t care about the whispers behind her back of how she takes care of them. Juxtaposing with Edna as a mother, her artist persona symbolizes her yearning disparity for independence. Unfortunately for her boys, Madame Pontellier holds her amateur profession as a painter much higher than her kids. The surfacing of becoming a painter also signifies the surfacing of her outward appearance in her attempts to actually be independent, independent from her husband and social conformity.
In the end, she escapes by swimming out into the seductive “abyss of solitude.” This was, in essence, a paradoxically triumphant ending to her life, for even though she kills herself, it was the only choice that she made wholeheartedly and independently. Also, by ending her life she has the victory that no one except herself controls her soul, her being. It is out in the depths of the sea where her inward questioning meets in harmony with her outward veneer.