Slaves to Public Perception
The Awakening by Kate Chopin is a riveting tale following the lives of several Creole individuals living in New Orleans. It focuses on the deception created by a woman, Edna, and the individuals that surround her. Throughout the story, all of the individuals except for Edna are slaves to the perception of the public.
Léonce is the epitome of this ideology. If you pay attention to his actions throughout the book, they are dictated by his outward appearance to his clientele and neighbors. He had sent a large bundle of bonbons and peanuts back to his family when he was away just for this purpose. ...view middle of the document...
A certain ungovernable dread hung about her when in the water, unless there was a hand near by that might reach out and reassure her.” (Chopin, unable to find the page number). He even had a convenient excuse to get inside Edna’s house while still appearing as only a friend, saying he needed tobacco related paraphernalia as he had none on his person at the time. With so much work spent on keeping things low key, when it came time for him to stop seeing Edna it was no surprise that he left her a note to break off the relationship before it was made aware. It may not have been the kindest way of doing it, but it definitely was the most discrete.
Alcee Arobin is another character in this story who some might say cares about what others think of him, only in a different way. He wears high quality clothing in order to keep up a high standard of appearance, and he has also earned himself the reputation for having affairs with many women. Alcee almost made sure of the fact that he is known in a certain way, much like Léonce works towards appearing as benevolent and gentlemanlike as possible. It is alluded to that much of Alcee's gentleman like behavior is all a show, and not actually part of his character as well. "Alcee Arobin's manner was so genuine that it often deceived even himself." (Chopin, unable to fin the page number)
Edna, however, does not fit this trend – it is demonstrated through her actions that she does not care so much about what others think as much as she cares about what she herself thinks. It is quickly made aware that she does not care about her children – “He reproached his wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children. If it was not a mother's place to look after children, whose on earth was it?” (Chopin, 12). Edna did not even share the same interest as her husband in providing for her family. At the “open houses” that were held to form connections with wives of wealthy individuals, Edna chose to wear plain, unimpressive clothes – “Mrs. Pontellier did not wear her usual Tuesday reception gown; she was in ordinary house dress.” (Chopin, 129). In fact, Edna did not even care enough to stay for the open house, which was greatly frowned upon by the Creole society....