Kate Chopin’s implementation of feminist oriented and/or feminist scenes completely constitutes her style in The Awakening, which creates a story of a woman who uses feminism as an excuse to neglect her children and loving husband, and be selfish and irresponsible. This is shown throughout the novel, as Chopin seems to not want to miss a chance for Edna to blame something else on her husband, or the male-oriented society around her.
First of all, this style is apparent even as soon as the third chapter, where Edna cries uncontrollably after having been put through “an indescribable oppression” (Chopin 7) by her husband. He asked that she take care of their children while he is away providing for her and the children, how dare he!? Of course, the thought of getting her own job and providing for the family so the horrible Mr. Pontellier can look after the children never enters the oppressed Mrs. Pontellier’s mind. Not only is just her oppressive husband introduced as early as the third chapter, but also so is the tyrannical male-oriented society, as Mrs. Pontellier is “forced to admit that she knew of [no husband] better [than Mr. Pontellier].” (Chopin 9) This feminist style of Chopin’s gives Edna such a feeling of resentment toward her husband and the obligations that surround her, that she concludes that all that she is not responsible for anything that has gone wrong with her husband and/or her friends, and “…the woman learns nothing by
experience and has not a large enough circle of vision to see beyond her own immediate desires.” (Culley 169-170)
Secondly, her style of feminist ideals grows more and more perceptible as the story moves on. It is very apparent by the middle of the book that Mr. Pontellier has done very well providing for his family, as “…the heavy damask which daily appeared upon the table were the envy of many women whose husbands were less generous than Mr. Pontellier.” (Chopin 68) And of course providing for Edna, “who was the sole object of his existence”, (Chopin 6) does not come cheap, yet with all that Mr. Pontellier has given her, and despite how much he loved and cared for her, she treats him as though he was an abusive monster. Like I said, providing for Queen Edna does not come cheap, and Mr. Pontellier’s business relies on a good social standing with his clients and acquaintances. In order to maintain this standing, he asks that Edna entertain guests one day a week, Tuesday, to be exact. Yet apparently, this is too much to ask of Edna, and in the heat of anger, she “[took] off her wedding ring, and flung it on the carpet. When she saw it lying there, she stamped her heel upon it, striving to crush it.” (Chopin 72) Yet she was unable to crush it, and since she had to do something in retaliation to her callous husband, “she seized a glass vase from the table and flung it upon the tiles of the hearth.” (Chopin 72) By this point in the book, Chopin’s style has caused Edna to no longer just be a “victim”, but now she is physically reacting to Léonce’s “abuse”.
Towards the end of the book, Edna is now in a relatively open rebellion, living in her own house that she bought with her “own” money, and completely neglecting her family. What a great mother Edna is, living in another house as her children. Now she not
only ignores their health, but she no longer has to take care of them at all! Edna made the money to buy the house by selling her artwork and betting on races. Of course, she got the money to bet on the races from selling her artwork, and she got her artwork from buying art supplies with the money Léonce gave to her. In her attempt to be independent, Edna failed because her independence was completely dependent on Léonce’s generosity in the first place. And how does she repay his generosity? With an affair, oh, no wait… two affairs. One completely physical with a man named Alcée, and another not-so-much with a man name Robert, who is, by the way, much too young for her. But as long as we call the whole adultery “An Awakening”, and make the husband out to look like a monster, then the infidelity is, of course, justified; as:
“…there are sentences here and there through the book that indicate the author’s desire to hint her belief that her heroine had the right of the matter, and that if the woman had only been able to make other people ‘understand’ things as she did, she would not have had to drown herself in the blue waters of the Mexican Gulf.” (Culley 169)
I would hate to be in Léonce’s position when he has to tell his kids what mommy has been doing in her new house, which daddy provided. Léonce “is less fortunate than most of his compatriots in having excellent reason for jealousy.” (Culley 168) The end of the book is where her style is most obvious, as everything bad is insinuated as a result of Léonce’s “oppressiveness”. Even her death is implied as a result that she had no way out from her captivity other than suicide.
Subtly to most, yet obvious to me, Mrs. Chopin is able to implement her style of feminism into her book, The Awakening. Although, I hardly consider that an accurate title. I would have gone along the lines of The Woman Who Was A Selfish, Irresponsible Harlot.