The Search for Happiness

April 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

In The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, unsatisfied Edna longs for something to sweep her off her feet. When it does, in the form of fresh love Robert, Edna realizes that she must choose between her family and her own mind and soul. At this realization, Edna understands the distinction between life and self – and chooses self alone. This decision changes Edna forever, as her passion-less life becomes one full of zealous passion, and in the end, concludes with perhaps the most passionate act of all. Edna’s married life, spent in caring for her family, lacked any emotional or physical passion because her marriage revolved around an acquaintance-like relationship. Edna, before marrying, had always been a passionate person. Leonce had proposed to her in “the midst of her secret great passion” (62); she had accepted this marriage because of “the violent opposition of her father and her sister Margaret to her marriage with a Catholic” (62). Edna admits that she enjoyed rebelling against shackling authority-she would have to seek “no further for the motives” (62) to marry the Catholic Leonce. He also seemed sufficiently passionate at first, but eventually “no trace of passion or excessive and fictitious warmth colored her affection” (63) for him. Thus Edna has glimpsed, but never fully experienced, passion when Robert comes into her life and sets off the spark that leads to her awakening. Edna’s newfound passion and perspective on life become apparent in many ways. For instance, the music of Mademoiselle Reisz overwhelms Edna; her emotional outburst after hearing the woman’s song indicates that Edna is a changed woman. Before, Edna would never have had such an expressive reaction to a simple song. Though “it was not the first time she had heard it” (71), “it was the first time she was ready…to be tempered….of the abiding truth” (71). Edna’s relationship with her children, who had been her bedrock thus far in her marriage, changes as well. Edna begins to understand the distinctions between life and self, and makes an important decision to keep self exclusive while remaining willing to give up her life for her children. In conversation with Madame Ratignolle, she states: “I would give up the unessential…my life for my children. But I wouldn’t give…myself. I can’t make it more clear” (97).” Edna makes a distinction between life – the body – and self, the soul and to Edna the more essential of the two. Edna’s decision to take her own life symbolizes the completion of her awakening. She does not commit suicide in an ugly way; she does not shoot or stab herself. Rather, she gives herself up to the sea, which, she realizes is much bigger and greater than herself. She feels completely reborn by the sea as “she walked out…the touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace” (176). As the water touched her skin, Edna felt as if she was being reborn. Edna’s decision to leave behind her children in suicide reveals how her frustrating lack of passion with Robert overcomes her. Though she loved her children, she felt her children were overcoming her and bearing her down. In fact, Edna had “…no on thing in the world that she desired…the children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul’s slavery for the rest of her days” (175). Strangely enough, she makes the decision for suicide because of her one weakness: her unbarring love for her children. She knew that if she stayed alive, she would go back to her children and accept her unsatisfying married life with Leonce again. The only way out of this was death, as when she died, she proclaimed “Good-by-because I love you [children]” (176). Death would complete her awakening, as she would be reborn into the sea and turn away from a life that denied true passion with her only true love, Robert. No other title other than “The Awakening” would have suited Edna’s journey more fittingly. Her journey from leading a passion-free life to searching for true affection to suicide indeed represents an awakening from within. It symbolically captures her being awakened from a trance that has affected her whole life. She is, in a sense, “woken up” by her inner self and forced to fight against the limitations of society. Edna understands the importance of being an individual and not being shackled by anyone, including her children. Her decision for suicide reveals how important passion was for Edna; indeed, for her, a life without passion was no life at all.

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