Edna’s Predicament in The Awakening

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Dr. Mandelet, speaking more as a wise, older man than as a medical authority, shows an understanding of Edna’s predicament. When Mr. Pontellier seeks his advice about his wife’s strange behavior, Dr. Mandelet immediately questions if there is another man involved. While Edna believes she is asserting her independence, Dr. Mandelet recognizes that she still desires a man in her life and has an uncontrolled submission to sexual passion. After freeing herself from her husband’s prescribed gender roles, Edna begins to act without considering the opinions of others, as Leonce would desire her to do.

During a visit to Mademoiselle Reisz, Edna boldly showcases her newfound attitude. Instead of opting for a more modest hot chocolate, she confidently requests a “man’s drink”: “I will take some brandy,” she states, shivering as she takes off her gloves and overshoes. Edna drinks the brandy from the glass in a manner characteristic of a man. Afterwards, she throws herself onto an uncomfortable sofa and declares, “Mademoiselle, I am going to relocate from my house on Esplanade Street” (962). However, she admits that despite the move being just “two steps away” (962), it signifies a setback in her feminist progress after taking a step forward.

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Despite her newfound assertiveness, the protagonist will still face challenges in her changing life. While she communicates with Robert in what she considers an unconventional manner, she remains a product of societal conditioning and desires to relinquish her identity to someone else. According to Cristina Giorcelli, the process of transition entails both inner and outer ambiguity. As Edna searches for her true self, she either loses or enhances her original gender roles and social qualities. However, this interpretation of the story may oversimplify its inherent ambiguity.

Although Giorcelli agrees that the story’s message is unclear, she contradicts herself by arguing that Edna achieves a composite unity through her androgyny, which allows her to be both integral and versatile, necessary and free. Overcoming sex and role differences implies subjugating what restricts but also substantiates, ethically requiring Edna to master the unilateral responsibility. Edna’s bourgeois crisis, the conflict between her duty towards others and her rights to herself, might be resolved by embracing her dual nature. However, Edna never achieves this wholeness, which I believe is Chopin’s intended point. In this transitional period for women’s history, complete success is impossible since the goal is not yet defined. Giorcelli’s claim that Edna achieves a quasi-divine wholeness by transcending gender restrictions appears to stem more from feminist mythology than close textual analysis.

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Edna’s Predicament in The Awakening. (2019, Mar 22). Retrieved from


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