Caught in a Wake of Illusions To remain, or not to remain: that is the question. In The Awakening, a novella by Kate Chopin, the main character, Edna, explores the depth of this question as she awakens from her blind submission to society’s demands. Realizing for the first time in her life that she is trapped in a box culturally deemed appropriate for women, she struggles to break free and pursue individuality. In the processes of trying to find herself, she sacrifices society’s approval, her husband’s desires, her home, and her social standing.
Reflecting on her life Edna says, “Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life. ” These lines encompass the overarching moral of the story and emphasize that the self-awareness and wisdom that come with awakening are far more important than any comforts ignorance might provide. Therefore, it is crucial that individuals understand the implications and sacrifices involved in both yielding to and refusing social conformity. Remaining conformed to cultural standards is a sacrifice of independence and uniqueness.
This is most noted when the narrator describes, “In short, [Edna] was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual… How few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult! ” In other words, it is nearly impossible to come back to life as it’s been after having a taste of freedom because it would require sacrificing one’s individuality. Edna is experiencing a new state of understanding as the narrator describes, “She began to look with her own eyes; to see and to apprehend the deeper undercurrents of life.
No longer was she content to ‘feed upon opinion. ” This indicates that before Edna was awoken she did not have her own identity and merely “fed upon opinion. ” She was brainwashed by society and followed its standards without questioning. This need to sacrifice independence to seek culture’s endorsement is a high price to pay. Likewise, pursuing individuality requires sacrificing the approval of others. Once Edna discovers her feelings for Robert and the two of them are on the island she inquires, “How many years have I slept? The whole island seems changed.
A new race of beings must have sprung up, leaving only you and me as past relics. ” This fantasy both reveals Edna’s desire to be alone with Robert and personifies the only circumstance under which the relationship would be possible. Since society would not approve of their love, each of them would have to relinquish their reputation to be with one another. Right before the story ends Edna repeats Robert’s last words which were, “Good-bybecause I love you. ” And she perceives, “[Robert] did not know; he did not understand. He would never understand.
In other words, Robert refuses to be with Edna because he does not realize the importance of sacrifice and is unwilling to give up their society’s conventional traditions. Although the journey toward freedom may stir up desires for that which is unattainable, or even forbidden by society, it does not have to be the moral issue that it was in Edna’s case. Her particular adulterous yearning is simply an example of what could also be a genuine longing to do things unconventionally. Whatever the pursuit may be, going after a sense of eccentricity will elicit forgoing the approval of others.
Furthermore, prioritizing freedom and desiring to break away from authority involves a sacrifice of personal relationships and the risk of alienating loved ones. Edna faces this struggle with her husband, Mr. Pontellier because she feels like he controls her. After her first awakening experience, Edna’s husband demands that she come inside and go to bed and it is noted that, “She wondered if her husband had ever spoken to her like that before, and if she had submitted to his command. Of course she had; she remembered that she had.
But she could not realize why or how she should have yielded, feeling as she then did. This realization that her husband used to control her and Edna’s refusal to continue obeying him demarks the first steps she takes toward taking control of her own life. The second prominent example of blatant disregard for her husband’s wishes is when Edna moves into her own house. No longer wis to live in her husband’s house, she moves to her own as the narrator points out, “The pigeon-house pleased her.
It at once assumed the intimate character of a home, while she herself invested it with a charm… Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual. This validates Edna’s desire to be free from her former life and highlights the fact that she is only able to truly flourish when she is on her own. Sadly, one must be willing to give up relationships in order to fully achieve this sense of independence. At first glance, oblivion’s seductive incentives of peace and tranquility may seem inviting, but upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that living a mundane, robotic existence is artificial and lacks the vivaciousness of life. However, acting upon this realization, or awakening, necessitates giving up society’s approval and separating oneself from loved ones.
Kate Chopin gives an excellent example of these sacrifices in The Awakening, in which Edna must pay the price for removing civilization’s blindfold to establish her own identity. Remaining conformed is a sacrifice of independence, while pursuing individuality and freedom is a sacrifice of relationships and society’s validation. Although Edna must suffer in light of this epiphany, she discovers that the self-cognizance and understanding that accompany an awakening are far more important than the inconsequential luxuries that come from remaining a victim of delusions.