The ‘awakening’ story was written by Kate Chopin trying to present the culture of a patriarchal society. Kate presents various themes in the story and predominantly the sexism, which points out the male chauvinism which treats women as subjects of obedience to men. The story has stylistic devise symbolism; which is represented by the singing parrots on the introduction. As well Edna’s deep sleep symbolizes the introspection about her feelings in the marriage and the provisions of the society. The story outlines Edna as the victim of the male chauvinism and who is faced with a dilemma in identifying her role as a female in society. Edna appears confused when she encounters the modern world and realizes that females, just like men, have freedom of making decisions in marriage and that failing to marry is not a big issue. Therefore, the discussion in this paper is narrowed to the role of women in the patriarchal society and Edna’s reactions to such roles based on her experiences.
The Role of Women in the Society
The awakening story is set in a patriarchal society which presents women as naïve elements who are subject to control by men. The position of women in the story is based on the meaning of the patriarchal society. According to Lois Tyson, patriarchal society is any culture that promotes the traditional gender role while giving a lot of privileges to men. The patriarchy is referred to as ‘the rule of a father’ meaning the father assumes full control over women, expecting women to remain submissive. Women are thus viewed as elements that should honor and respect men and stay at homes carrying out household chores and taking care of all that belong to men. Tyson continues to explain that society underestimates women’s self-esteem and brazenness, and then with the qualities on hold, women are natural and submissive.
Men are mandated to exercise full control over women, who are expected to remain acquiescent. Men and women are subject to well-defined duties, which each should remain responsible. Men are expected to stay strong and support the families as the heads while the women are to undertake all the house chores. Indeed, men are not believed to fail in anything they try since such is treated as the failure in ones “manhood.” Women are supposed to marry and to bear children as their greatest wish in life. Such a notion looks inferior, and views require women to remain submissive to their husbands. Women are expected to take care of their husbands, children and home surroundings. Surprisingly, women are not allowed to participate in business activities that involve finances for such would acquaint them with the capabilities of taking care of themselves and consequently contradict the belief of submissiveness to men. Indeed, good women are expected to have a fear of sex, viewing it as weird and fearsome. As a result, male power has to be insinuating to the consciousness for women, which in turn forces women to define themselves as subordinate and dependent on men.
How Does Edna Feel about the Role of Women in the Story?
Edna is not satisfied with the patriarchal society, which holds that a woman has no idea or opinion on her own. She sees the role of submissiveness to husbands as a violation of the women capabilities and ramming of their potentials. Janet Beer acclaims that all the Chopin’s miserable women are fighting against the endings and their ideas of completeness in the act of marriage. The words are proven by Edna who feels uncomfortable with her marriage, and she is not ready to offer her emotional life as expected by the patriarchal society. Just like Ratignolle would argue, women would not mind giving money, provide comfort to children and husband, but would be concerned with the idea that a man possesses her body and soul. She stood by the opinion that her father had ruled her enough during childhood and she did not have to be led at her adulthood. For that reason, she fails to marry any man as she expects to have equal rights with the husband, who should comply.
Surprisingly, when Edna visits Grande Isle, she finds the women taking care of their husbands and children and gets amused. She feels pity for the women and especially their ability to efface themselves, and decides to remain resistant to the principles of the patriarchal society. The position of the woman in society yielded some confusion to Edna or her gender. Though she seemed to stand against the view of the community towards women, she chooses to marry Mr. Pontellier with the assumption that he objects to what the society advocates. Indeed, she believes Pontellier is devoted to her, and she could receive the sympathy of thoughts and taste from the father-in-law Leonce. However, Edna was mistaken to think that Leonce would look different from her father, for he later turned to be loyal to patriarchal beliefs. As a result, Edna feels that the position of women in society denies her rights and chooses to defy her husband and acquire her freedom. She feels the desire to be a kind of woman who would make a decision by herself and implement them, thus coming back to her awakening. Edna undergoes a ‘sleeping phase’ which refers to a state of repression. In the sleeping phase, she ponders her role in society, as a mother and a wife. Such implies that her situations in the society are worrying and she is not happy about that. The parrot that appears in the first phase of the topic appears to quarrel and symbolically refers to Edna’s complains as a result of the humiliating position of women in the story.
The story portrays the position of women in society in the past times under the patriarchies. Edna resolves to fight for the welfare of the females by objecting the norms and principles of the marriage and submissiveness to men. The actors in the story are strictly contained to the theme of sexism and ventures less on other themes making the whole story revolve around the violation of the women’s right. She brings awakening especially after encountering modern life at grande. She forces herself to marry Mr. Pontellier and bears children with her. However, she fails to witness her father-in-law Mr. Leonce behaves contrary to the provisions of the patriarchal society. The modern life provides some freedom to women especially in making decisions about their lives contrary to what is experienced in the patriarchal society.
Chopin, K. (2017). The Awakening (Norton Critical Editions). WW Norton & Company.
Ruiz, R., & Rosa, A. (2018). The Development of the Feminist Self and the Quest for Identity in The Awakening and “The Storm.
Septiana, D. W. (2015). A woman’s struggle against patriarchy in Kate Chopins The Awakening: A Feminist Perspective (Doctoral dissertation, Sanata Dharma University).