Notes on The Awakening Themes

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The Awakening Topic Tracking: Feminism, Femininity and Independence

Feminism 1: When Leonce looks at his sun burned wife as a piece of his property that has been damaged, he is demonstrating male chauvinism at its height. According to him, she has no independence, no personal self-fulfillment, and must only live for him.

Feminism 2: Leonce believes that Edna is not performing her womanly duties and is an irresponsible mother. He believes women must tend to their children, household duties, and their husbands alone. So, when Edna begins to show signs of independence, he erupts with frustration and anger.

Feminism 3: Adele Ratignolle embodies everything about femininity and womanhood of the last century. She is devoted to her husband, who adores, her, gives birth every two years, and adorns herself with lavish clothing and jewelry. She depends on her family, not herself, and is notable for her beauty.

Feminism 4: Adele knows the strength of her own femininity and warns Robert not to play with the somewhat primitive sense of feminism that Edna possesses. Adele can flirt and play coquettishly with Robert, but worries that Edna can only do so if sincere. She worries that her fellow female friend may get hurt by a relationship with Robert.

Feminism 5: Edna's venture into the deep ocean waves at night after the Ratignolle's party seems a stroke of independence. She displays her new talent in front of her friends and undertakes it on her own. Everyone watches her swim into new, unknown territory in the water, and also in her soul, for she is now awakening to her independence and female capabilities, aside from simply cleaning, cooking, and child-rearing.

Feminism 6: Edna stands up to Leonce later the same night of her groundbreaking swim. She says no to him and will not follow him inside. This lack of obedience angers him. She has awakened from a nap, and it seems also a dependent life that she hopes to leave behind, as well.

Feminism 7: When Robert informs Edna that he is leaving for Mexico, she feels suffocated and hurt, as if she is dependent upon Robert for her livelihood and happiness. Whatever independence she feels she may have awakened to, it seems unimportant and irrelevant without Robert.

Feminism 8: Edna claims that she will not be the typical female of the time and give up her entire world - her entire self and soul - for her children. She will give her life, but not her soul. Mademoiselle Reisz is shocked to hear this from a mother, but in a sense, understands. Edna thinks of her self and her soul independently of her family.

Feminism 9: After Leonce yells at Edna for not acting like the typical female wife, she explodes in a silent uprising of her own. She cries, breaks a glass, and stomps on her wedding ring. This behavior is not that of a dependent, dainty wife. Instead, it is a picture of a woman awakening to her unique femininity and foresight of independence.

Feminism 10: Edna increasingly acts according to her own personal desires, with little to no regard to Leonce's wishes. She goes outside alone, visits friends alone, and ultimately frustrates her husband. Leonce has difficulty dealing with his wife's new independent nature and thinks her to be mentally unstable.

Feminism 11: Leonce is so frustrated and confused by his wife's new actions that he visits his family doctor, Dr. Mandelet, for advice and aid. Dr. Mandelet claims to have discovered nothing extraordinarily new on Edna's condition. He just relates the fact that women are a complicated and confusing species. He believes that Edna is just in a bizarre mood and that it is certain to pass.

Feminism 12: Edna begins to enjoy her new independent life without Leonce. She grows accustom to doing things on her own and finding her own friends and begins to spend time with a new group of people. This natural progression towards independence seems inevitable, especially with Leonce away in New York on business.

Feminism 13: Edna openly admits to never wanting to belong to anyone else again. This claim brings her ahead of her time, outside of the typical female of the time, and into a somewhat futuristic, feministic woman.

Feminism 14: Edna has moved in and is living comfortably in her new pigeon house. She visits her children in Iberville at their grandmother's and returns home to her independent, solitary life. She enjoys having time to herself, delineating when and where she wants to see other people.

Feminism 15: After Adele tells Edna to think of her children and Dr. Mandelet inquires as to Leonce, Edna bursts with frustration. She wants nothing to do with dependence on other people and she doesn't want anyone to depend on her. She simply wants her independence, to become her own women in her own way, and to not give up her entire life and soul for her children. She wants her life for herself...and her love affair with Robert.

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