The Awakening


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  • The Field of Her Youth
  • In the field, she defies societal expectations by running away from (more likely than not) Sunday prayer. She is escaping the controlling influences of her father and the religion that structures the society she lives in.
  • All the piano players up to this point play to entertain or perform for other people, from the twins to Madame Ratignolle. Their music evokes images to Edna, but it's Mademoiselle Reisz' music that defies convention, as she plays out of passion rather than for entertainment. Her music has depth and conjures up raw emotion rather than images in Mrs. Pontellier. This runs counter to the normal societal practices, and so Edna is the only one "worth playing for" because she too exists outside this passionless society.
  • Mademoiselle Reisz's Music
  • "Likely as not it was a Sunday, and I was running away from prayers, from the Presbyterian service read in the spirit of gloom by my father that chills me yet to think of"
  • Grand Isle Beach
  • Societal Expectations
  • The very chords which Mademoiselle Reisz struck upon the piano sent a keen tremor down Mrs Pontellier's spinal column. It was not the first time she had heard an artist at the piano. Perhaps it was the first time she was ready"
  • Madame Antoine's Garden
  • "A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before."
  • When Edna goes to the beach, she is fresh off of her emotional awakening. She needs to express herself and once again defy convention, so she goes where "no woman has gone before." The narrow role that society has defined for her is no longer enough. However, in this scene we see that Edna has the bravery to make a decision but not the strength or stamina to maintain it. This heavily foreshadows the conflict in coming chapters, and helps develop the theme.
  • Edna and Robert are more comfortable in the garden, away from the pressure of society. Their fantasy includes the complete destruction of their way of life- "leaving only" those two. The freedom and comfort they feel here contrasts with the oppressive weight imposed on them from societal expectations- in Edna's case being a good mother and wife, and in Robert's case being a perfect Catholic gentleman.
  • "How many years have I slept? The whole island seems changed. A new race of beings must have sprung up, leaving only you and me as past relics."
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