Victorian Repression Essay

Submitted By hopematheson
Words: 753
Pages: 4

It is no secret that the Victorian era was a very repressed time. Society revolved around images of etiquette and manners, and hid many aspects of being human from view. In her masterpiece novel, The Awakening, Kate Chopin details the repression society in that era forces upon its members and the struggle people in that time experienced. Two characters who best illustrate this are the foils of Leonce Pontellier, who submits to society’s pressures, and Alycee Arobin, who does not. Both characters are victims of their time, showcasing the evils of societal pressures. Leonce Pontellier, the husband of the main character, Edna, is a respectable man of his time. He is a “great favorite” (page 8) in the Creole upper class society of New Orleans, a very successful businessman. He considers his wife to be “the sole object of his existence” (7), and is in many ways the perfect image of a husband, showering his wife with “kindness and a uniform devotion” (8). He “please[s his wife], his absolute devotion flatter[s] her” (18), and all the ladies consider him to be “the best husband in the world” (9). However, he views his wife as a “piece of personal property” (4), and though “he greatly valued his possessions” (48) it was “chiefly because they were his”. In short, Mr. Pontellier is, like many of his contemporaries, a shallow man who lives a very material-oriented life. Mr. Pontellier is a conformist: he believes that if the Pontellier family “expect[s] to get on and keep up with the procession” (49) by observing all of the rules society has set up for them and keeping up their image. When his wife selfishly decides to move into the “little house around the block” (78) while he is away on business, he is not concerned by her attempts to escape their domestic lives together, but by “what people would say” (88) to see her abandon the Pontellier mansion. So, he used his “well-known business tact and cleverness” (89) to devise an elaborate cover up for the move and putting his home under renovation for “sumptuous alternations” (89). Mr. Pontellier lives in the fantasy world of Victorian Creole society, where his life falling apart does not ultimately matter, but the way people view him is of utmost importance. Alcee Arobin, Mrs. Pontellier’s lover, is the exact opposite of Mr. Pontellier. Because he refuses to conform to the images of society that Mr. Pontellier lives under, Arobin lives on the fringes of the upscale society, reduced to being a guilty pleasure for married women such as Mrs. Pontellier. His reputation as a seducer precedes him, and immediately upon noting Edna’s peculiar behavior, the local doctor immediately “hope[s] to heaven it isn’t Alcee Arobin” (68). This is because Arobin makes a sort of career out of seducing married women, and has refined craft so well that “his presence, his manners, the warmth of his glances, and above all, the touch of his lips,”…