Change does not occur easily or without conflict. Change does not occur quickly nor smoothly. Many characters go through change in a novel, like Edna from The Awakening. Edna lives as a simple mother-woman and follows the general rules of society. She later experiences new bearings which lead to her self-discovery toward a better life. Edna kills herself at the end of the novel and frees herself from the social confinements. Edna, in the beginning of the novel, tailors her life to the path set before her. A mother of two, Edna’s life does not concern herself, but her husband and children.
All of Edna’s interests are thrown to the side to make way for her family, as a mother-woman would do in the nineteenth century. Edna understands that a woman’s thoughts should stay on the inside. There is a dual personality in Edna, “the dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions” (Chopin 26). Edna does not express opinions or anything that would insinuate a power struggle between her and the men around her. This behavior is typical of the woman in the nineteenth century as women were only seen as objects.
Edna is especially seen as an object in the eyes of her husband. After Edna comes back to her husband from the beach, he shows concern over her darkened appearance. Mr. Pontellier looks at his wife as if she is “a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage” (Chopin 7). Edna does not establish herself as a human with thoughts and opinions, as she just laughs with her friend soon after. Although, there are a few women who do share opinions and speak about educated topics in broad daylight.
Edna is with these women in the beginning of the novel, they are part of the Creole group. These women hand Edna a book and Edna is too stunned to look at the book or join the conversation, she sits there in shock (Chopin 19). Edna does not understand why these women speak out brashly when they are not allowed to do so. She does not stop them, but she finds herself becoming happy with this type of environment. Edna starts off the novel as a perfect woman of the nineteenth century. Edna goes through an awakening process in which she changes her life.
Edna experiences a kiss with a man that is not her husband, this is the first experience she has that goes against the female ideals of her time (Chopin 139). Edna already shows signs of going against the grain of her society before this experience, but this experience sets her wants and needs for a freer life. A more free life from the confines of mother and wife. Her role as a wife commences to diminish and her husband becomes concerned and even consults a doctor to try and find what is wrong with her. He tells the doctor, Edna “goes tramping about by herself, moping in the street-cars, getting in after dark.
I tell you she’s peculiar. I don’t like it” (Chopin 110). He shows concern due to Edna’s lack of socialization with other females and the general rebellion against societal norms. Edna recognizes that the love she feels for another man is not the main reason that she is going through what she is going through. Edna says “it was not love which had held this cup of life to her lips” (Chopin 140). She knows that this desire for a life of free will is driven by her own desire. Edna begins to recognize the faults in her life and starts to revolutionize her life and behavior.
Edna reaches the end of the novel and frees herself. Edna has changed her desires in life and wants to find a way to reach freedom. Edna has already freed herself of the life she lived before, but she knows that it is not enough. Edna knows that she is “no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose” (Chopin 178). Edna reaches a point and can’t possibly reach anymore freedom. Edna perceives this and follows through to her ultimate freedom. Edna knows that it will take a great deal to achieve this.
At one point, she even considers sacrificing her children for her own happiness. She tells the Doctor, “I shouldn’t want to trample upon the little lives. Oh! I don’t know what I’m saying, Doctor” (Chopin 184). She is speaking of trampling the lives of her children to free her own morality. Edna finally frees herself in the only way possible, death. Edna goes out into the ocean, a place that used to calm her and make her happy, and drowns herself (Chopin 190). This symbolizes the sacrifice that women have to make in order to be in charge of their own fate.
The death of Edna signifies the worth of a mistreated individual. Edna experiences many things, but all of those go to waste when Edna finds her best option for a better life is not life at all. Edna’s life completes by her own choice, she finds her own moral reconciliation. The death of Edna results in Edna’s freedom. In the beginning of the novel, Edna represents the perfect specimen of a mother-woman. Then, Edna awakens and espies how her life could change. Edna reaches her final freedom and leaves her life behind. Ending one’s life shouldn’t have to be the only way to free oneself.