I believe that Kate Chopin, author of The Awakening, uses the plot, characters, setting, and the themes in order to get your point of view across to the reader. Each one of these elements makes the story easier to understand through Chopin’s use of them. The plot is needed in order for it just to make sense. The characters give the story a personal feeling, the setting lets you imagine the events happening in your head as you read this novel, and the themes finally let you know what the author was trying to let you know while reading the story.
The plot of this book is somewhat simple in the beginning, but turns a little awkward once you actually get into the novel. The main character is Edna Pontellier. A young southern woman that has been brought up in the way that most southern women were brought up in the Victorian age of the late 19th century. She was taught to be a good daughter, good wife, and finally a good mother. When the story begins she is all of these things. Then she meets a young man by the name of Robert.
He turns her life upside down as she begins to feel a passion for him that she has never felt before in her entire life, not even for her husband that she thought she loved. When Robert goes away, she misses him dearly and begins to change her life’s priorities, such as not staying home on Tuesdays as most women did and were expected to do so. She also changes her mindset away from trying to get the world’s approval and just does what makes her happy at that time. She does things such as moving into a smaller house while her husband is away to show this.
She even states in the novel: “I don’t want anything but my own way. That is wanting a good deal, of course, when you have to trample upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of others but no matter. ” Robert comes back towards the end of the novel and Edna tells him the way she feels. He decides that he will not let her divorce her husband because if the shame it will bring on her and her children especially. When Edna realizes that she can never be truly happy in her life she takes what she believes to be the only way escape She swims out to sea until her strength was gone and she drowned herself.
There are many characters in The Awakening, each with their very own personality. The first is the main character, Edna Pontellier. As I stated before, she is a young southern woman that does what most other southern women did of that time period. She cooked and cleaned, took care of the children and just ran the household. Her husband, Mr. Pontellier, plays a rather small role in the novel due to the fact that he goes away for awhile while Edna is undergoing her changes. Robert Lebrun is Edna’s true love that she realizes she cannot live without.
Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz represent what society views as the suitable and unsuitable women figures. Mademoiselle Ratignolle as the ideal Grand Isle woman, a home-loving mother and a good wife, and Mademoiselle Reisz as the old, unmarried, childless, musician who devoted her life to music, rather than a man. Edna oscillates between the two identities until she awakens to the fact that she needs to be an individual, but encounters the resistance of society’s standards to her desire. Many other characters come up but their part does not contribute to the author’s point of view.
The setting of The Awakening is in only two locations. The beginning and end of the story are in Grand Isle Louisiana, while the middle of the novel is set in New Orleans. Grand Isle is a lush summer getaway for the rich of Louisiana at this time period. New Orleans is a busy metropolis of business. I believe that each setting helps to develop the author’s viewpoint, because in each she undergoes a change. When she is first in Grand Isle is where she meets Robert and her love starts. When she goes back to New Orleans, she starts her new lifestyle.
Finally the setting returns to Grand Isle and she eventually kills herself there. It is as if New Orleans “awakens” her, because Grand Isle puts her “to sleep. ” There are a couple of different themes presented in this novel. First is the obvious theme of women independence. Edna practically rebels against everything she has ever been taught. The second theme I see in this novel is the self-preservation by Edna. As my quotation shows before, she says she will do whatever she feels necessary in order to achieve happiness for herself.
Both of themes work together in order to get Chopin’s’ point of view across to the reader. She moves out of her husband’s house not only to rebel against him but also to preserve her happiness for as long as she possibly could. Chopin’s opinion to me is that people, not just women, will do anything in order to achieve happiness. Even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice in taking your own life. Edna trued everything she could possibly think of in order to achieve happiness.
After finding that this would only happen if she were able to be with Robert and also learning that Robert would not let her, she did what she thought was the only choice she had left. She preserved herself buy taking her life so that she was no longer under the control of the world, and she rebelled against the world at the same time, because she expressed that women no longer had to be possessions of the men in their life. I believe that Kate Chopin was a writer that was just way ahead of her time. All of these elements that I have described in this paper help any reader of this novel to better understand this very strong story.
The plot of this story is one that no one had ever entered before and I commend Chopin for going into it. The characters were all developed and all had some symbolism with them. The setting as I stated earlier was sort of the way I would come to the title of the novel. The themes were revolutionary of this time and were very easy to spot with is the case with most well written novels. Finally, a reader of The Awakening should have no trouble in finding out Chopin’s opinions. I believe that with these elements defined I have summarized Kate Chopin’s novel: The Awakening.