English II Honors
10 May 2013
Overcoming Society and its Confinements Edna Pontellier is the single dandelion growing in a perfectly manicured lawn. No matter how many times the dandelion is pulled out of the ground or cut away from the surface it always seems to grow back just as strong. The dandelion is the lone fault in the otherwise uniform and routine lawn that has looked the same for years. Any blade of grass that grows higher than the others is cut down by the ever-present lawn mower. However, the dandelion refuses to stay the length that it is wanted to stay. No one likes having the dandelion on his lawn, but no one is able to kill it. Edna shows her resistance against her lawnmower of a society in Kate Chopin’s novella, The Awakening. She is the only woman who stands up for herself and her own liberties and is able to rebel against the characterizations and limits that society has thrust upon her. Edna continues to shine as an individual in a sea of conformity until she cannot take it anymore. Rather than surrender to society’s standards as every woman of her time seems to do, Edna kills herself in a final act of rebellion.
Women of the late 1800’s were oppressed in every sense of the word, as shown in Edna Pontellier’s daily life. The female population as a whole was denied the basic freedoms that should be guaranteed as a birthright. In fact, women were not given the right to have their own voices heard at all. Any woman who had radical ideas like Edna was condemned in this society no matter what (Seyersted 104). Most of all, women were unable to openly express individuality. Intellectual thoughts and opinions were simply not allowed if they came from a woman. Freethinking women seemed to be pushed to the side as afterthoughts of the world and could not receive equal treatment no matter how hard she fought for it or who she was. Any woman of Edna’s time was always at a disadvantage in society and was “always handicapped in the race of life” (Dix 150).
Gender inequality has always been a social normality that women have had to overcome.
History can prove that men have created a society where they are always superior to all women in any circumstance (Gentry 113). In society, men hold the role of the conqueror while women are the conquered (Seyersted 106). It is unfortunately true that “Society will show a quite compact resistance against woman leaving her traditional role as the weaker sex” (Seyersted 107). Essentially, men have decided what women cannot and should not do in life based on their own preferences. Literary critic Dorothy Dix writes, “Woman’s whole life is one long lesson of patience and submission. She must always give in” (Dix 151). The stereotypical woman of society is provided for and her life is decided by the man (Seyersted 107). Life troubles are harder for women than for men because of the lack of respect from the male population. Women did not and still do not get as many opportunities in life as men do. Because of this handicap, they often lack hope and do not aspire to do anything or be anyone special (Dix 151). It is generally more difficult, threatening, and lonely for a woman to free herself from the bonds of society than it is for a man (Seyersted 106).
Differences in gender even exist when it comes to suicide. More men commit suicide than women because men want to end their troubles while women “bear theirs on to the bitter end” (Dix 150). However, women are more likely to be blamed for killing themselves than men are. This prejudice comes from the stereotype that women are needed to stay with their children no matter what (Dix 150). Suicide is actually more justifiable for women because of the life drawn for them by society. It is harder for a woman to be happy and fulfilled in a world where her submission is constantly demanded (Dix 151).
Edna has been born into a society where numerous standards have been thrust upon all women without their consent.