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Gender Roles in Kate Chopin’s the Awakening

Literature from various eras reflects both the writer’s perspective and the social mores of the period. In order to comment on the situation or just to convey their own experience, writers address a variety of social and cultural problems including marriage, sexuality, and gender roles. As a result, even if literature books are not often intended to be historical records, when they are published, they serve to represent what is typical. Students have discussed many topics and how they are portrayed in literature throughout the course. Gender roles are one problem. The purpose of the assignment is to explain how Kate Chopin’s The Awakening explores gender roles. The protagonist of the novel, Edna Pontellier, is divisive and stands for rebellion against the period’s Victorian society’s oppression of women.

The main focus of the narrative is gender roles. For instance, Edna Pontellier, the main heroine, criticizes the prevalent society norm of the time about women’s gender roles. She challenges her place as a woman of the era, for instance, throughout the whole book. She objects to being called a mother or a wife, as was typical of women at the period. She battles for separation from her spouse and the right to decide what she wants to do with her life. For example, Mr. Pontellier “…reproached his wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children,” the book claims. If the mother were to fail, the husband worries who would look after the kids. It is evident from the statement that she rebelled against society’s and her husband’s expectations of her behavior.

The primary protagonist’s actions and inclinations are also contrasted with those of other women in the era. According to the author, motherly ladies were simple to spot in the summer. These women gushed about how much they enjoyed raising their kids. They respected the kids, paid them attention, and took care of their husband’s needs. Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman, according to the author, “but it was easy to know them, protecting wings when any harm…threatened their brood.” Unlike other people, the protagonist’s spouse did not exhibit comparable behaviors. She tended to her own wants and tried to fill her time according to her own demands rather than according to her societal gender position as a wife or mother. When Edna asserts that she does not sacrifice herself for her children, it is evident how differently she views her connection with them from other women. She claims she is ready to part with her cash and little possessions, but she wants to stay true to herself.

The portrayal of the society at the time among other women in the novel highlighted the distinction between Edna’s behaviors and expectations. For instance, Edna notices how Adele interacts with her husband and family when she pays a visit to her friend in New Orleans, and she finds it to be extremely different from the circumstances at home. Adele and her spouse, in her opinion, had a strong fusion and mutual understanding. The lady in the relationship had committed herself to taking care of the requirements of the family. She acted like a decent wife and understood what her husband and family required. For instance, she instructed Edna to consider the kids while she delivered the baby. She thus kept her attention on her children to get through whatever physical stress she was experiencing. So, she made decisions based in large part on her family and children. She was unable to act independently as she pleased. Adele attempts to explain to her friend why she has to put her family and kids first. Edna was resolute about separating from her husband and her family, however.

The way Edna conducts herself in her marriage and her attitude about other people’s marriages demonstrates her opposition to the gender norms prevalent at the time. For instance, she declines her father’s desire to go to her sister’s wedding. By refusing, she demonstrates that she does not support the institution of marriage and confronts the expectations placed on her as a daughter and woman to carry out her father’s wishes. She also had adulterous encounters with guys she is not married to during the course of the novel. For instance, Robert believes it is appropriate to ask Edna’s husband to release her from her vows so she may wed him once she falls in love with him. Edna, though, is certain that she is not the man’s property. She believes that she does not need to request her independence from her spouse as a result. The situation makes it evident that Edna has the opinion that men and women should be treated equally and freely and that women shouldn’t be subject to the authority of males.

Edna dates Robert and Alcee Arobin without thinking twice despite how important her obligations as a mother and wife are to her. She first meets Robert at the start of the narrative, and he starts to flirt with her. They kiss shortly after the flirting becomes serious. They continue to have an affair while moving covertly up until Robert leaves for Mexico without notifying her. Arobin then enters her life. She is gorgeous in Arobin’s eyes. They begin to get intimate after some flirting. Even if she is more in love with Robert than her spouse or the new suitor, there is still closeness. She understands that women may also have fulfilling sex without being in love. She need not commit to a guy in order to enjoy herself with him. Despite the little interactions she had with the boy, Robert returns. Her connection with him is still ongoing. Her love life demonstrates her complete lack of adherence to any Victorian-era gender standards.

Through the male characters in the book, men’s roles are also shown. For instance, Edna’s husband believed that as a lady, Edna fell short of his standards. For example, he expected his wife to take care of the kids, but she didn’t. He saw that his wife was more disobedient than other ladies. In reality, Mr. Pontellier believed Edna to be ill and brought her to the doctor to do tests and determine what illness she was suffering from. But the doctor assured him that his wife was in good health. He still couldn’t figure out why Edna would act as autonomously as he did, in contrast to other ladies. Mr. Pontellier also pondered who would be left to look after the children if the wife failed to fulfill the duties of a wife at the time. He thus considered himself to be the head of the family and a provider. He believed that as the patriarch, he ought to be taken seriously. He was thus startled that Edna didn’t appear to care as much about him and the kids as other ladies did.

The function and proclivities of the male gender are particularly evident in Edna’s interactions with Robert and Arobin, the men with whom she has illegal relationships. For instance, even though they are dating and he is in love with her, Robert still leaves for Mexico without telling Edna. Because he thinks males should rule over women, he also thinks he has to beg her husband to free her. He feels, like Mr. Pontellier, that he must wed Edna. Edna, on the other hand, is unwilling to respond and opts to attend to other problems first.

The story’s narrative contributes to the argument that gender roles are societal constructs that are difficult to break. Edna repeatedly rejects traditional female roles, yet she is unable to find the satisfaction she hopes to find in independence. Instead, she and Robert divorce. Robert also takes her with him. Because of her reluctance to conform to her cultural responsibilities, men love her but are unable to be with her. Over the course of the book, the protagonist’s attitude progressively changes. For instance, Edna was originally a normal obedient wife, much like most other women in the 19th century. However, she began yearning for freedom after she met Robert and began to feel a connection to him. As a result, she changed her behavior following the trip. She eventually left her marital home and had an affair with Arobin as a result of her reluctance. Even though she falls in love with Robert, she ultimately chooses against being married to him and to leave her so that she may be free. She becomes alone and unusual as a result of her independence, but it costs her life. She is thus incompatible with the rest of society.

The way Edna supposedly drowns in the end is a representation of her resistance and her inability to flourish at the moment. Edna discovers she is not welcomed in society after Robert departs. She leaves her society behind and heads back to Grand Isle. She decides to go swimming despite the water being excessively chilly, acting rebelliously as usual. Far from the coasts, she becomes exhausted and is unable to get to safety. She observes social conventions in much the same way as she enters the chilly water. She believes that being free will bring her happiness, but instead, she feels lonely and gives in to her desires.

In conclusion, The Awakening by Kate Chopin is set in the Victorian era, when women were supposed to be housewives and men’s servants. Edna, a married lady who learns the truth and defies society’s expectations, is the book’s heroine. She fights against being a wife and mother and wants to be free. She said that she wanted to fulfill her own objectives and ended her marriage. She rejects Robert’s marriage proposal, however, and she continues to stay alone even after he falls in love with her. She ultimately drowns by herself since she won’t fit in.


Choplin, K. (1899). The Awakening. Herbert S. Stone & Co.


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