May 23, 2014
Independence Leading to Failure “I care for myself. The more solitary, more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will be free.” - Charlotte Bronte. In The Awakening and At Fault by Kate Chopin, the main characters demonstrate that the hardships associated with the need for independence leads to freedom. The main characters freedom is displayed throughout the novels, as the main characters become more independent, but also when they fail as mothers, and as wives. Becoming more independent is a priority to Edna from The Awakening and Therese from At Fault. Edna strives to become independent throughout the novel, and although she achieves it, it does not mean she is successful. She starts to become more independent throughout the story. As it is said in the novel, “Mrs Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her.” (p.21) This shows that Edna is becoming more self-aware, showing her independence. Another example of Edna’s growing independence and self awareness would be when she teaches herself how to swim, “She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before.” (p.44) Although most women do not have much say in what they do in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Edna gets past that, and wants to do things her own way; this is why she teaches herself how to swim. She is overcoming the traditions of women in her era by doing what she wants, which proves her independence. Ever since she learns how to swim, she finds peace and independence at sea. This leads to her eventual suicide, which happens when she drowns herself. Edna says this while she teaches herself how to swim, and she repeats it before she kills herself, “The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” (p.189) This connection shows that the sea is Edna’s freedom, and by drowning herself, she is becoming free from society, where she feels she does not belong. Although her strive for independence causes her death, she ends up finding freedom, even if it is through her suicide.
Similarly, Therese from At Fault also becomes more independent as she grows throughout the novel, searching for her freedom. At the beginning of the novel, Therese only feels independent in her mind, “Therese possessed an independence of thought exceptional enough when considered in relation to her life and its surrounding conditions.” (p.34) This shows how she has independence in her mind but not in her actual life. However, as she becomes more self aware throughout the novel, she also relates the freedom in her life to water, exactly like Edna did in The Awakening. She says, “The water, in rising to an unaccustomed height, had taken on an added and tremendous swiftness.” (p.154) This shows how she has become more self-sustaining; the water reaching an “unaccustomed height” is representing how Therese has achieved a level of independence not achieved by many women in her era. Her rising independence leads her to freedom, and is shown when it is said in the novel, “Really, when she [Therese] stands at the end of the veranda, giving orders to those darkies, her face is a little flushed, she’s positively a queen.” (p.129) This shows her freedom because although minimal people in the late 1800’s take orders from women, Therese is an exception, giving orders with confidence. She earns this freedom by striving for it throughout the entire novel.
Most women cannot live without their family, and need children to make them happy. However, in The Awakening and At Fault, Edna and Therese both do not like the responsibility of having children, and feel forced into having children because they are women. Edna, from The Awakening, always finds freedom when her children are gone, “She was fond of her children in an uneven,