Tone Of The Awakening

The tone of The Awakening is melancholy. The book is not a happy one. The protagonist is so unhappy in her marriage that she contemplates suicide, and eventually dies by drowning herself. The novel’s tone is also one of resignation. The main character is so resigned to the confines of Victorian womanhood, she doesn’t even realize how restricted her life is, even after she begins to break free. The novel also has a foreboding tone throughout much of it, because Chopin builds up the anticipation that something bad will happen with all her references to death and the sea.

The last line is a lyrical lament for lost youth and lost dreams that make The Awakening sound like an elegy for Edna Pontellier herself. The chronicling of Edna’s slow awakening as she becomes more aware of herself as a person forms The Awakening ‘s central plotline. The book begins with Mrs. Pontellier engaging in what Victorian society would consider normal behavior: taking care of her children, her home, and being dutiful to her husband. Gradually, The protagonist begins to slip out of the role in which she has been cast in her society.

The novel makes it clear that Edna is at least somewhat aware of the restrictions placed upon her by Victorian gender roles, but still she continues to rebel against them because The Awakening is not the story of a passive woman who suddenly develops desires for freedom. The novel shows how The protagonist gradually comes to realize what being free might mean for her, and where The Awakening ends, Edna has just begun to scratch its surface. The mood is melancholy because Chopin’s writing takes on a wistful tone as she shows Edna coming into awareness of who she is and what choices are available to her.

The words and examples Kate Chopin uses in The Awakening come together to describe the rebellious feeling of a woman in search for her own identity and independence. The tone throughout The Awakening is that of someone who has their own beliefs and doesn’t care about what others think, which expresses the attitude of women at this time period.

Edna Pontellier goes through many experiences where she gains knowledge about herself—this is known as her ‘awakening’. Throughout The Awakening, Edna starts off being ignorant of herself and her true feelings, pushes away those who truly care for her, and finally finds herself towards the end. The author Kate Chopin uses various techniques to bring out Edna’s individuality that are demonstrated throughout The Awakening. These include the use of symbolism, word choice, tone/moods, detail, literary devices (personification), imagery, point of view & themes.

The tone of The Awakening talked about Edna’s infidelity and her guilt, which was shameful for women in general at the time. The shamefulness of The Awakening and its protagonist is expressed through tonal elements such as: Chopin’s verb choices and point of view metaphors used to describe the main character, Edna Pontellier. Chopin wrote The Awakening from a third-person perspective allowing us the reader to see both what Edna is feeling and thinking but also allowing us insight into other characters such as Robert, Adele, Mademoiselle Reisz, Madame Antoine etc.

By use of this narrative device we get an insight into how other characters feel about Edna her actions; we get another side to Edna’s character. The tone in The Awakening meant that it was considered vulgar because women were expected to be nurturing and caring, rather than self-centered like Chopin’s protagonist (Smith np). For example when describing Robert, the protagonist’s husband she says “He held his head with a certain distinguished looking attitude that he had acquired…There was about him an air of pensive insolence…his eyes half closed as if he were tired” (Chopin 4).

The choice to use words such as ‘pensive, insolent, and tired’ give the impression through diction that Chopin is painting Robert in a negative light; this would allow us readers insight into how Robert’s wife sees him. The tone of The Awakening is also implied through Chopin’s point of view; she does not play the part of moralizing author but rather takes a neutral position. The novel shifts it focus on Edna rather than society like many novels were doing at the time (Smith np).

It’s important to know that Kate Chopin was merely one writer of her time, and The Awakening was criticized heavily simply because it went against what society expected from women. The tone in The Awakening focused specifically on Edna, who often fought with herself about her actions, describing her moments of guilt as “sickening” or feeling “wretched”(Chopin pg 162) The guilt Edna felt acted as a sign of moralizing, telling women about how they should feel. The tone in The Awakening was also seen in the way it talks about Edna’s affairs.

The focus is on her experiences rather than judging them or seeing them as vulgar (Smith np). The tone of The Awakening clearly laid out the idea that women were not seen as their own beings but rather extensions of men which could ultimately lead to feelings of guilt because she was straying away from what society expected of her. The tone in The Awakening points out that she did not want to conform to the role other people wanted her to play, expressing through writing “I will be myself at last”(Chopin 159).

”The independence started when Edna realized she did not have to go inside; she was independent enough to go wherever she pleased. This can also be applied in The Awakening, Chopin wrote about Edna’s refusal to answer her mother’s letter by saying “She had not answered the letter because she had nothing to say.” The quote shows how Edna has become independent and feels no need to communicate with her mother because there is no reason for her to do so. The awakening of each character corresponds with the time period that they lived in.

These times revolved around modernization, industrialization, urbanization, and imperialism. The society created during this time mirrored the slow progression towards women’s rights. However, it would not be until World War I that the majority of the Western world would see a true change in women’s rights. The process to obtain equality was slow and gradual, but Edna’s awakening is a direct correlation with the time period The Awakening took place in.

The role of feminism only aided the novel’s plot, making it easier for Edna to realize her independence. The effect she had on all those around her created a perfect storm with a bit of tension and struggle added into the mix. The most important aspect of The Awakening is Edna’s character development from someone who relied completely on men, to someone who realized she did not need them at all to live a happy life.

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