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Feminism In "The Awakening" Essay

1540 words - 7 pages

Is The Only Way Out Death?A feminist critique of The Awakening brings about a completely different reading of the book. A feminist reading exhibits the negative depiction of women. It isn't thought that Kate Chopin was intentionally writing a book about the objectification of women or that she was attempting at activism (Showalter 211). In her time, Chopin had no knowledge of the effect her writing would have on women and men alike, or that her work would be "recognized today as the first aesthetically successful novel to have been written by an American woman" (Showalter 203). There is a binary opposition in The Awakening. Jonathan Culler states that it is a "matrix that organizes ...view middle of the document...

He never claimed that the choice would be an easy one, however. "In the face of apparent necessity, one could always choose death" (Palmer 234). This is a radical statement of Sartre's points, yet applicable. Edna had an awakening and exhausted all of the possibilities available to her. She did the one thing, as a human being, she had the capability to do. She threw herself back into the sea that engulfed her senses.The goal of feminism is to bring an end to the objectification of women, and in literature, to show that female characters are historically non-existent or exist only to serve men, and also to reclaim the role of women as characters and writers. This is mostly because it is not hard to see that "there is no place whatsoever for woman in the calculations of the hierarchy that is literature (Cixous 579). The Awakening, at first glance, was written by a woman and would seem to lack that problem, while it actually perpetuates it. "Power is the issue in the politics of literature" and almost always males hold the power, historically" (Fetterly 561).Even today women are not generally perceived as the breadwinners in a household. Women have traditionally, though more women work in 2004 than thirty years ago, taken care of the household and raised children. Even the women who seem to be escaping that cliché are enabling it to carry on. "One PR executive financed her husband's new restaurant and ended up pleading her case in bankruptcy court with $960,000 of debt attached to her name. She lost the 2,200-square-foot house with the pool and her Audi A6. 'I thought supporting his dream would get me to my dream -- to be a stay-at-home mom,' she says. Instead, she wound up a Saturn-driving single parent living in a condo with no credit." (Conlin 1) This particular woman, only as an example, ruined her life for the false ideal of family. This is not surprising considering there are agencies like The National Parenting Association. Agencies such as this one work to make parenting a higher priority. Women fought years, and continue to do so, for rights that would equalize them with men. Women are graduating from college at a higher rate than white men do, but family and raising children continues to be a motivating factor.There is a stigma attached to women who choose not to get married or have children, especially in the South. I have personally experienced this on many occasions. Edna Pontellier knew this fact. She attempted at a life where she gave up her goals and aspirations for a husband and a family, only to live in a world of despondency and despair. There are repeated instances in the book that refer to her despondency, ending in the last chapter of the book: "Despondency had come upon her there in the wakeful night, and had never lifted. There was no one thing in the world that she wanted" (Chopin 138). The environment that Edna lived in was shaped solely on the ideals of men that were projected on the women. The men went off to work...

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