Repression plays out subtly in The Awakening, as the open, "free-speaking" Creoles who are partly responsible for Edna’s awakening (artistically, sexually, etc.) turn out to be all talk and no walk. At the end of the day, the Creoles really do expect husbands and wives to be faithful to one another. They limit their scandalous behavior to flirtatious talk and "dirty" novels. Restraint is the name of the game here. In contrast, Edna, who begins the novel as very repressed, learns the talk and then walks the walk.
Questions About Repression
- Who is the least repressed character in The Awakening? The most repressed?
- Why does Mr. Pontellier remain so restrained when he sees Robert Lebrun flirting with his wife?
- What if the character seeking sexual fulfillment was Mr. Pontellier? How would the book change?
- Why on earth does Edna play games with Arobin and then sleep with him for the first time after finding out that Robert will soon be home?
Chew on This
Had Edna Pontellier not spent her summer in Creole society, she would have remained unaware of her need for personal fulfillment and would have remained faithful to her husband.