The restrictions and expectations imposed on Edna Pontellier in The Awakening are based purely on her gender. The societal structure of the Victorian Era decreed that a woman was fit to be only a wife and mother, but Edna has other ambitions: artistic, financial, and sexual freedom. In seeking her own identity, Edna necessarily runs counter to her society’s notions of womanhood.
Questions About Women and Femininity
- To what extent does Edna imitate or learn from the other female characters in the novel?
- Why doesn’t Edna try to be more like a "mother-woman"?
- Does Edna’s awakening provide potential for other women to be awakened (like maybe Adele Ratignolle)?
Chew on This
Although the friendship of Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz are key elements in Edna’s awakening, Edna ultimately transcends her friends’ models of living.