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In Flight
Forced Smiles
Happy Oblivion
Ducking Destiny
Chance of Showers
Chance Encounters
The Thinking Dog
The Race
Flight of the Ostrich
Monster Under My Bed
The Rose Garden
Window Shopping
Dramatic Romances
Musings on Nature
A Day at School
The Holy Light
A Rainy Night


The Roller Coaster
The Purse
Sammy's Lesson
The Legend of the Hungry Dragon
Spirits in the Night


My Philosophy of Life
Five Scholarship Questions
Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois
Prophets for God
My Service Project (1999-2000)
My Service Project (1997-1998)
The Beauty of the Forest
Reaching Beyond

The Pastry Menace
A College Just for You!
The Rights of Plants

Literary Analyses
Saving Harry:  Clearing the Controversy Over Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Essays on Wuthering Heights
The Creature in Frankenstein and the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Edna's Decision in The Awakening
Character Comparison in Kate Chopin's The Awakening
Why The Chosen?

Research Papers
Race, Norms, and the Sidewalk
Analytical Exercise
The Validity of Comparing Governments
The British System: Legal-Rational Or Traditional?
The Importance of Framing
Madison on Factions
Spirituality and the Brain
Sea Water and Conductivity

Clinic Violence: A "Moral" Way to Bring About Change?
Graduation Speech
The Call to Relationship
Mark Twain Speaks Again (original version)
Mark Twain Speaks Again (shortened version)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Year 2000
Hunting for Sport?

Mercury Spill Exercise
Chocolate Feature Exercise
Character Sketch
Reaction Story
Aspiring Actress Profile
"Shark Attack" Exercise
Villa Maria Academy Hosts Diversity Panel

Coastal Vacation

Edna's Decision in The Awakening

In the final chapter of Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening, Edna Pontellier, the novel's protagonist, drowns herself in the ocean. This decision may be viewed as both a personal victory and a societal defeat. It has aspects of both, and it is difficult to choose just one.

Edna, through the course of the novel, "awakens" to the fact that she is unfulfilled and changes her approach to life. No longer will she bow down to what society expects of her. Sadly, she learns that she cannot have it all; she cannot be herself and still be a good mother, since her rebellious actions will reflect badly on her children. However, she realizes that she cannot give up who she is for the sake of her children, so she sacrifices her life instead for the sake of their reputations.

On one hand, this decision can be seen as a personal victory. Edna preserves herself by giving up her life. She does not give in to what society is demanding of her. She will be herself until the end. Yet she is not able to live long as fully realized person. Her life after her awakening is very short in comparison to the time she spends repressed, so she has little time to develop her artistic skills and even less time to spend with her new love, Robert Lebrun.

In that way, Edna's decision could be seen as a societal defeat. She is not strong enough to fight against society, so she leaves it. Society, whose restrictions she thinks she has overcome, overcomes her in the end. However, Edna probably would not be truly defeated by society unless she reverts to its ways. If Edna does not kill herself for her sons' sakes, then she must sacrifice the person she is now to become what society expects of her. Going back would truly be societal defeat.

The ending of The Awakening is open to several interpretations. It is impossible to say that only one is right. Depending on one's perspective, both positions are correct.

Copyright © 2002 Colleen Fischer | Last updated October 7, 2002