The Differences Between Adele and Edna in Chopin’s The Awakening The characters of Edna Pontellier and Adele Ratignolle in Kate Chopin’s Awakening represent two psychologically different types of women, as seen in 19th century those that were content with the traditional role of housewives, subscribed to them by the society, and the small minority of predecessors of modern feminism, whose sensuality would inevitably start to contradict the rules of social conduct, adopted by Western civilization. From the first time we meet Edna and Adele, author gives us a hint that, in the end, these two characters will be thought of in terms of psychological antagonism. This is achieved through emphasising the difference about their physical appearance: The women were both of goodly height, Madame Ratignolle possessing the more feminine and matronly figure, also we are told that Madame Ratignolle was more careful of her complexion (Chopin, VII), although it is hard to say what exactly Chopin meant by that. Thus, the more feminine appearance of Adele Ratignolle is directly associated with the more feminine nature of her character. But it is their social stance that makes Edna and Adele psychologically incompatible. Edna as fully awaken individual she realizes that beauty often coexists with ugliness and courage with cowardice.
Even though, Ednas well developed intuition allows her to foresee events; it renders her powerless to alter their course. As time goes by, she begins to consider herself as having only one goal to attain freedom. Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual. She began to look with her own eyes; to see and to apprehend the deeper undercurrents of life. No longer was she content to feed upon opinion when her own soul had invited her (Chopin, XV).
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On the other hand, Adele is absolutely static character. She does not grow spiritually, therefore her opinions about the matters are marked with dullness and conventionalism.
Her lack of intelligence causes her her to take what is written in the bible literally. She seriously thinks that women are responsible for perpetrating the original sin. When Edna shows Adele her paintings, Adele expresses her admiration with the ones that are the least valuable, from the artistic point of view: Surely, this Bavarian peasant is worthy of framing; and this basket of apples! never have I seen anything more lifelike. One might almost be tempted to reach out a hand and take one (Chopin, XVI).
Still, Edna seeks an approval of her intellectual exploits, even though that She knew that Madame Ratignolle’s opinion in such a matter would be next to valueless(Chopin, XVI).
This, of course constitutes a big difference with Adele’s attitude, for whom the best encouragement would be her husband’s slap on the buttocks. Even though that Chopin is being clearly critical of traditional womanhood, it cannot be denied that Adele is a happy woman, unlike Edna, whose continuous search to find its own essence, will bring her ultimate demise.
It is quite clear that psychologically, Edna is actually a man, while Adele is a woman. The real reason why Adele is quite happy and content with her dull life, is because her mind fits her body, while Edna’s inquisitive mind would fit much better the body of a man. It also explains why Edna would much rather explore her sexuality, instead of repressing it, like Adele. Still, by actively striving towards the maximum of sexual pleasure, Edna gets less satisfaction out of it than Adele, who thinks of sex in terms of sin. This is the real reason why, every once in a while during the novel, the monotonous exchange of pleasantries between Edna and Adele turns into a heated arguments. It is best illustrated in in the part where they discuss what should be the measure of woman’s ultimate sacrifice to her children.
... of their daily lives. Inequality is often justified by men as part of their culture or religion. Women and children face brutal situations ... working to stop the problem of unequal rights on women and children. UN-WOMEN (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment ...
Edna absolutely disagrees with the suggestion that she should be happy to live for her children exclusively: I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. I can’t make it more clear; it’s only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me, but this statement is confronted by Adele, saying: I don’t know what you would call the essential, or what you mean by the unessential… but a woman who would give her life for her children could do no more than that–your Bible tells you so. I’m sure I couldn’t do more than that (Chopin, XVI).
The irony here lies in the fact that Adele confuses physical life and one’s uniqueness, because she simply does not posses the individuality. She is simply the birth giving machine, whose existence is only valuable, for as long, as it benefits her children. In my opinion, it is the biggest difference between Edna and Adele.
In this respect, it appears that it is not Edna’s extraordinary personality that makes her to come up with controversial statements, but it is these statement that endow her with personality. Edna comes to the conclusion that only three things in this world have the property of moral prerogative health, beauty and intelligence: In short, 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. This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eightperhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman (Chopin, Chapter VI).
This, of course, could never be understood by Adele, who lives in highly mechanized mode, only appearing to be the human being, in the complete sense of this word, while in reality, her only purpose is to please the eye of her husband. Nevertheless, we cannot suggest the Edna is superior to Adele, in any respect.
Quite contrary, it is Adele’s life of a housewife, who is loved by her husband and children, which remains the subject of feminists’ secret desires, even in our time. The Edna’s tragic end shows us the destructiveness of any intellectual efforts to deny biological predetermination, as the greatest factor of social motivation among people. Despite the fact the character of Adele can hardly be considered as intellectually appealing, she nevertheless is represented as normal woman, therefore many male readers are more sympathetic to her than to Edna.
... impact were Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz. Although these two women are very different, both influenced Edna s decisions about her life greatly. ... relationship, with each other as well as with their children. Adele was perfectly happy attending to her family s needs and ... thinking about Kate Chopin s novel, The Awakening, one must recognize the impact the other characters had on Edna. The two ...
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Aug. 1994. The Project Gutenberg Etext.
27 Feb. 2006. http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext94/awakn10.txt.