The book The Awakening by Kate Chopin was written in the late 1800’s. In that time period women were considered property. They were owned first by their fathers, and then after they married, their husbands. Most women had the same goals in life: to get married, and have children, oftentimes to a man they hardly knew, and have children some never wanted. Then throughout their lifetime they had to clean the house, take care of their children, and cook the meals. In the book, Edna was a typical woman, and she was sick and tired of having to fit the mold of what women were expected to be. When she sat down to hear Madame Ratignolles’ song, something inside of her changed. The fact that Edna titled the song that Madame Ratignolle played “Solitude” foreshadows her movement away from society, and her separation from that to find herself, all while developing the theme of struggle.
Edna wanted to separate herself from the society so that she and Robert might have a chance at love.
“There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert;”624).
She knew that even after she was separated from her past life, she would be alone, even without Robert.
”…she even knew that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone.” (624).
This is the reason why Madame Ratignolles song makes her picture a sad and lonely life.
“When she heard it there came before her imagination the figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the seashore. He was naked. His attitude was one of hopeless resignation as he looked toward a distant bird winging its flight away from him.”(Lines 5-8)
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The bird represents Robert. The man is separated from everything, and all that’s left is that bird, and even the bird is flying away from him. Edna was imagining solitude and the thought of loneliness while she listened to the song. She is struggling with the thought of not even having Robert with her.
During the transition of Edna’s separation from society, she struggled to find herself, and who she truly is aside from the woman she grew up as.
“Perhaps it was the first time she was ready; perhaps the first time her being was tempered to take an impress of the abiding truth.”(Lines 15-16)
While she listened to the music she realized that she was lying to herself before she left the society she knew. She was not a “Mother-Woman”, and she was not meant to be trapped in a house with children and a husband to please. While she was listening to the song being played, she was imagining pictures of what her life could possibly turn out to be.
“Another piece called to her mind a dainty young woman clad in an empire gown, taking mincing dancing steps as she came down a long avenue between tall hedges. Again, another reminded her of children at play, and still another of nothing on earth but a demure lady stroking a cat.” (Lines 9-12)
She was picturing all the things she could be in life; a happy woman living on her own, a mother, or an old maid. Who was she? She had denied who she was up until this point. She struggled with her own identity and was now ready to find the truth about herself. She was ready to face the music, and discover who she really was.
Edna leaves the society without knowing who she really is, and that is one of her struggles: her identity. If she’s not what she has been pretending to be her whole life, then who is she? Edna struggles with the thought of being alone, even without Robert. She leaves her whole life, and by doing so, she struggles to find a new identity for herself. She no longer wants to be a typical woman: married to a man she doesn’t love, and having to raise children she never wanted. Her struggle away from society led to her struggle to find her new self, and identify who she really was.