Adele as a Foil to Edna in The Awakening The novella The Awakening by Kate Chopin follows the main character Edna Pontellier as she contemplates the life she has chosen for herself. Edna, the defiant protagonist undergoes huge personal changes throughout the novel and is awakened to see a new world she has never experienced before. Edna’s confidante in the novel is a woman named Adele Ratignolle. Adele is not only a good friend of Edna’s, but she is also a foil to Edna as she and Edna have opposite character traits. They differ in their physical appearances as well as their mental characteristics. Adele possesses traditional character traits which make Edna’s unique traits seem all the more unconventional and develop Edna’s character through her awakening. Edna and Adele differ in a few ways, the simplest contrasting traits they have are their physical descriptions. Both women are described as young and pleasing to the eye, however, their beauty is different. Edna’s beauty is less conventional than Adele’s traditional beauty. “Madame Ratignolle, more careful of her complexion…She was dressed in pure white…suited her rich, luxuriant beauty as a greater severity of line could not have done”(54). Chopin describes Adele’s physique as rich and luxuriant. She is graceful with a complexion that has a sense of the traditional beautiful woman. Her traditionally beautiful body type further expresses the unconventional beauty found in
Edna Pontellier. “The charm of Edna Pontellier’s physique stole insensibly upon you…he would have recognized the noble beauty of its modeling, and the graceful severity of poise and movement, which made Edna Pontellier different from the crowd”(58). Both Edna and Adele are characterized as pretty woman with a certain charm about them. Because Chopin characterizes Adele as such a traditional beauty, Edna’s unconventionally beautiful physical traits are highlighted. This develops Edna as a character who is different from the crowd and expresses her individuality. Mrs. Pontellier and Mrs. Ratignolle have opposite feelings when it comes to their husbands and children. Adele is characterized to put family as her first priority above all other things. Adele’s love and connection with her family is unconditional and when compared to Edna it is very different. Adele is a mother woman, a trait that is described as, “They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels” (51). Edna does not share the same passion that Adele has for her family, particularly her husband. “Her marriage to Leonce Pontellier was purely an accident…He fell in love…He pleased her; his absolute devotion flattered her”(62). Adel is different from Edna when it comes to family because Edna lacks passion. Her marriage to Leonce is described as an accident which indicates it was not what Edna may have truly wanted. Adele is a family orientated woman who is described to worship her husband. Adel’s unconditional love and passion she feels towards her family helps to characterize Edna as disconnected and indifferent towards her family which plays a
Pitts 3 major role in the process of her awakening.