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Women’s Issues: The Awakening

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Intentional or not, Kate Chopin showcased women’s issues through Edna Pontellier in her novel, The Awakening. American males forced women to into different situations and took away many rights they have today. Women wanted more rights and more say in what they were involved in. In The Awakening, Kate Chopin creates a theme of women’s issues through Edna Pontellier which exemplifies sexism, feminism, and women’s inequality. Female identify was an important moral that women wanted. A few women were demonstrating new independence in their daily lives (Dyer 66). It was hard for women to break away into independence when all their rights were basically controlled. The consequences of their actions could be severe which made it a few number of independent women. The Awakening was the fixed idea of women’s roles. Women had fixed roles which exemplified feminism and sexism to the fullest. Female passion was still taboo and was thought to be immoral and unhealthy. Female passion was completely up to the man of the family at their desire.

It was immoral because the morals weren’t there for the women. Some single women or divorced women in the 19th century did refuse to marry or remarry. These women either withdraw from society or commit themselves to a righteous cause. The decisions made by some of these women could positively or negatively affect their lives. The Creole women of Louisiana, which seemed to have less of a limitation than other women, were actually among the most conservative members of their sex in the 19th century. It would have thought to be that they would receive more leverage than the other women. Women went through destructive nature of Victorian notions of women’s sexuality. Women’s sexual awakening became a contradiction because the medical establishment would begin to promote the view that normal women possessed no erotic tendencies whatsoever.

The government was so against women that the medical establishments were starting to be against them. Normal women are not sexual but were forced into sexual situations. Men could get women into sexual situations forcefully without consequences or the woman’s approval. Women did have the desire to have children but did not want to be forced unto it. This was one major example of the destructive nature. The consequences of this were emotionally mutilating. Women would give themselves self-harm from everything they went through. Most women would not try suicide but that would be the case for some women. The best use of destructive nature was the women’s voice. Society denied women a voice and that was what the women wanted the most.

Freedom was important but it wasn’t something women could attain. Encouraged to self- sacrifice rather than self-realization, women like Edna had to overcome tradition, biology, and intransigence of social structures in any effort at self-assertion. Women like Edna Pontellier would think of their life as a sacrifice rather than a realization or a meaning. They would give up so much not knowing the true meaning of equality, freedom, and having a voice. The Awakening exemplifies the nature of sexuality, self-hood, freedom, the meaning of adultery and suicide, and the relationship between biological destiny and personal choice. The men were selfish, women had no true meaning of freedom, the marriages went through adultery, and women would commit suicide from all the pain and suffering they went through.

The world of males was dehumanizing women, which would and could make them want to quit at life. When they would choose to quit they would kill themselves. Edna Pontellier recognizes that there is no role available to a Victorian woman that permits freedom which makes the only moral choice for a woman who insists on her self-hood. She recognized there was nothing she could do to get what she wanted for herself and her sex alone. She had to rely on her individual identity in the world that would constantly be overlooked and forgotten. Kate Chopin re-masculinized female suicide. Chopin used male tactics to mortify how women committed suicide. Edna Pontellier was seen as defeated and destroyed by lovesickness. Edna lacked the amount of love she needed. She didn’t receive much love growing up and her marriage didn’t show much love to her either. She felt so numb and alone inside she did not care if she died or not and the thought of dying did not bother her.

Sexism in America flourished greatly. The recent elections proved that sexism is rampant. It was obvious men had the upper hand in everything. White males were at the top. Black males were near in the same boat as women. The women felt powerless when they were really important to society. In today’s society, a woman could accuse a man of an accusation and the man can get in trouble instantly if they didn’t do it while back then it was vice versa. Men could accuse the woman of a crime and they would face consequences almost instantly. Men were powerful while women were powerless. In today’s society, it is still a man’s world. It is still a man’s world but women are more loved and equality is extremely more noticeable and used. Both genders and all races are said to be equal but hate crimes still happen. Sexism extremely dehumanized women and left them hopeless. Feminism is relevant to today’s young women. Equality is more common but is still not one hundred percent seen in today’s society. Feminism is seen as super anti: anti-men, anti-sex, anti-sexism, anti-everything.

It was seen as so anti because of the equality not being shown in America. America was supposed to be the best country in the world, the great free country, when in reality it was just as bad as the other countries. Feminists were supposed to be ugly, fat, and hairy. Society felt that supporting feminism was the wrong thing to do and often criticized feminists to make them feel bad or to make them switch viewpoints on who to support. It was also said to be that feminism was for old white ladies. That opinion really couldn’t be true because all women would want to be equal with men, not just an old white woman. Feminism was responsible for an increase in the number of women criminals. When women and some men would support feminism different riots and altercations would occur and women feminists would often get arrested. The more feminists the police force got off the streets the better for anti-feminists.

They would do whatever it took to keep America the way it was. It was claimed that women committed crimes because feminism had taught them that women should not be dependent on others. They wanted to be independent, even from their husbands. Feminists committing crimes illustrated independence. This was the relevancy of feminism. Suicide was the only act of control woman felt that they had. Heilbrun’s suicide was an act of will. The kind of choices Heilbrun made in her personal life were natural extensions of the risks she took in her work. Her not being able to make her own choices made her feel like a useless person. As she felt useless, she became careless and would take more risks. After the death of Heilbrun’s family cat, she had no feelings of the thought the cat was gone. She also said, “you can flush my ashes down the toilet for all I care”. Suicide was a part of Heilbrun’s Feminism . Suicide was something she wasn’t afraid of doing and it did not bother her to have the thought of dying.

Heilbrun was totally numb inside. Suicide to Heilbrun was closure and freedom. It was her plan all along to die. Many women felt that suicide was their only option to have a better “life” than what they had dealt with at that time. The act of sexism to woman had totally dehumanized the women of America. In reading The Awakening, I can say that America’s past history was not excellent at all to be a world power. The author created various examples of how feminism, sexism, and adultery of that time affected both genders. Regardless of the point of view, this topic is very important from the past history to the current generation of America and society.

Works Cited

  1. Berg, Barbara. “Sexism is flourishing in America.” Social Issues in Literature: Women’s Issues
  2. in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. 139-151.
  3. Dyer, Joyce. “Chopin made a daring foray into female identity and sexuality.” Social Issues in
  4. Literature: Women’s Issues in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. 65-73.
  5. Ewell, Barbara. “Edna recognizes the importance of freedom but is unable to attain it.” Social
  6. Issues in Literature: Women’s Issues in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. 97-103.
  7. Gentry, Deborah. “Suicide was Edna’s only authentic choice.” Social Issues in Literature:
  8. Women’s Issues in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. 110-116.
  9. Grigoriadis, Vanessa. “Suicide is an act of asserting control.” Social Issues in Literature:
  10. Women’s Issues in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. 174-182.
  11. Valenti, Jessica. “Feminism is relevant to today’s young women.” Social Issues in Kate Chopin’s
  12. The Awakening. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. 157-167.
  13. Wolff, Cynthia Griffin. “The Awakening shows the destructive nature of Victorian notions of
  14. women’s sexuality.” Social Issues in Literature: Women’s Issues in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. 87-96.
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