The Awakening is largely about an identity crisis. Dissatisfied with her labels as "wife" and "mother," Edna Pontellier seeks an independence that is hard to come by for Victorian women. The "awakening" that Edna experiences is the awakening of her true self – her real humanity that had lain dormant under a socialized exterior. The unleashing of the Inner Edna in the face of societal convention constitutes the main thrust of the novel.
Questions About Identity
- Edna says in Chapter Sixteen: "I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me." What is she talking about?
- To what extent does Edna feel motherhood to be a component of her identity?
- What is the key moment(s) in the novel where the Inner Edna begins revealing herself? At what point does the Inner Edna’s dominance yield negative repercussions?
Chew on This
Edna Pontellier commits suicide at the end of The Awakening because she realizes that her true identity is incompatible with Victorian society.