Critical Essays Awakening Kate Chopin
By trying to resolve it, we miss the point of the novel.For purposes of comparison, I will use the article Kate Chopin and the American Realists by Per Seyersted as a basis for the argument of the feminist perspective, and the article Feminist or Naturalist by Nancy Walker as a basis for the argument of the naturalist perspective.
Prompted by the birth of Madame Ratignolles child, Edna desires to return to a fetal state. even, perhaps, the desire to be reincorporated into the safety of pre-existence which can be experienced through the symbolic reunification of mother and child (Wolff 239).
She is emotionally unequipped to deal with awakening and is unable to live within society according to the ideals she has established for herself, illustrated through her suicide and the events preceding it. Throughout the novel Edna illustrates her yearning for a mother and her need for a mother figure, while shunning her own motherly duties. They were women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals (Chopin 9).
Ednas mother died when she was very young, and she is raised by her emotionless sister. Madame Ratignolle becomes Ednas mother figure, and she refers to her as a mother-woman.. Madame Ratignolle eagerly accepts this role, recognizing Ednas childlike innocence by protecting and advising her.
When she drowns, Edna is very childlike and unthinking, returning to the island where these three people helped her discover her awakened self. She swims far out into the ocean knowing she is possibly going to swim too far out for her to return: [t]o her unaccustomed vision the stretch of water behind her assumed the aspect of a barrier which her unaided strength would never be able to overcome (Chopin 28).
Edna has come full circle, and now she is trying to return to the most childlike state, that of the fetus. Ednas thoughts at her time of death are those of her childhood: She looked into the distance, and the old terror flamed up for an instant, then sank again.