Throughout The Awakening, Kate Chopin explores a variety of themes related to womanhood, identity, and societal expectations. One notable theme is that of selfishness. The main character, Edna Pontellier, is frequently criticized by those around her for being too self-centered and not focused on her responsibilities as a wife and mother.
While Edna does at times act impulsively and without regard for others, it is clear that she is simply searching for a way to live her life authentically and on her own terms. In the end, Edna makes the ultimate sacrifice for her own happiness, showing that she is willing to put herself first even if it means losing everything else in her life. Though selfishness is often seen as a negative quality, Kate Chopin suggests that it can be a powerful force for good if it is used to pursue one’s true desires.
Many people consider that selfishness has a negative influence on society. Selfishness is defined as being concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, and well-being regardless of others. In The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the protagonist, Edna, comes to realize the unsatisfactory existence she has been living. This awareness pushes Edna away from her marriage, family, and other relationships she has developed.
The novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin conveys a theme of selfishness through Edna’s journey of finding herself. Selfishness is first evident when Edna begins to feel dissatisfied with her role as a wife and mother. She feels like she is living someone else’s life and that she is not in control of her own happiness. “She was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her” (Chopin 12).
This realization leads Edna to act on her desires and take control of her own life, even if it means disappointing those closest to her. For example, Edna leaves her family for a prolonged period of time to stay at Grande Isle by herself. Although she is aware that her husband and children will be worried about her, she does not care and selfishly pursues what she wants.
Edna also becomes more interested in her own physical appearance and begins to take pride in her body. She starts to see herself as a sexual being and develops relationships with men other than her husband. The most significant relationship is with Robert Lebrun, with whom she has an affair. This affair makes Edna realize that she is capable of loving someone other than her husband and that she deserves more than what he can provide for her. As a result, Edna becomes even more selfish and decides to leave her family for good to be with Robert.
However, this relationship does not last long because Robert eventually leaves Edna. He realizes that he cannot have a future with her because she is still married and that his feelings for her are not as strong as he thought they were. This rejection leads Edna to feel abandoned and alone. “She was beginning to be aware that solitude had its limitations” (Chopin 84). The only person she can turn to at this point is her friend, Adele Ratignolle, who she confides in about her relationship with Robert.
Adele is the complete opposite of Edna and serves as a foil character throughout the novel. She is selfless, devoted to her husband and children, and always puts their needs before her own. In contrast, Edna is selfish and only concerned with her own happiness. The conversation between Adele and Edna highlights the differences in their personalities and how they view relationships. Adele believes that “the mother-woman represents the triumph of something which we men have sought to deal with since we emerged from our caves” (Chopin 86).
She sees marriage and motherhood as a woman’s ultimate goal in life and views anything else as unimportant. In contrast, Edna does not believe that she needs to be married or have children to be happy. She wants to be free to live her life however she wants and does not want to be tied down by anything or anyone.
The theme of selfishness is also evident in Edna’s relationship with her children. Throughout the novel, it is clear that she does not have a strong bond with them and does not really care about their well-being. For example, when she leaves for Grande Isle, she does not tell her husband where she is going or when she will be back.
She knows that he will be worried about her, but she does not care and goes anyway. She also neglects her children while she is gone and does not even think about them until she is on her way home. The only time she shows any interest in them is when she tries to drown herself at the end of the novel.
Some readers feel Edna’s misdeeds should be overlooked since they are expected to fulfill certain Creole society ideals. However, the function of selfishness is important in The Awakening, as Edna makes numerous personal decisions regarding her friendships and family members. Edna forms several close relationships, including two of them named Robert and Alcee.
The relationships she cultivates with these two people blossom due to the selfish actions taken by Edna in order to maintain power and control. As a result, it can be said that selfishness is one of the main themes in The Awakening.
When Edna first meets Robert, she is immediately drawn to him and his carefree nature. The fact that he is unattached and does not seem to fit into the confines of Creole society intrigues her. In addition, Robert provides Edna with an escape from her stifling marriage and allows her to feel alive again. It is because of these things that Edna begins to pursue a relationship with him, despite knowing that it is wrong. The affair they have is based purely on Edna’s selfish desires and she does not consider the consequences it will have on either of their lives.
Alcee is another man with whom Edna develops a close relationship. The difference between Alcee and Robert is that while Robert represents Edna’s escape from her current life, Alcee represents the life she wants for herself. Edna is attracted to Alcee because he is everything her husband is not: charismatic, fun-loving, and exciting. However, like her affair with Robert, Edna’s relationship with Alcee is also built on selfishness. She uses him to make her feel desirable and wanted, things she does not feel in her marriage.