The Awakening


The Relationship of The Awakening and Creole Society
In The Awakening, Kate Chopin brings out the essence of through the characters of her novel. In this novel Edna Pontellier faces many problems because she is an outcast from society. As a result of her isolation from society she has to learn to fit in and deal with her problems. This situation causes her to go through a series of awakenings that help her find herself, but this also causes problems with her husband because she loses respect for him and the society she lives in. Throughout the novel she is faced with unfavorable circumstances which confuse and eventually kill her. Kate Chopin uses Creole Society in the 1890s as a basis for her novel and expresses it through Creole women, personal relationships, and etiquette.
The Awakening is a book based on French Creoles and their lifestyle which is expressed throughout the novel. Creoles were French Creole Society descendents of French and Spanish Colonists of the 1700s. They had strong family ties because of Catholicism and were a tight community because they where considered outcasts of Anglo- American society. Clement Eaton says that
"the Creoles, to a greater degree then Anglo-Americans, lived a life of sensation and careless enjoyment. They loved to dance, gamble, fish, attend feasts, play on the fiddle and to live without much thought of the morrow." Eaton 252
Creoles were very lively outgoing people because of their comfortable tight society. Activities such as Mardi Gras and Sunday afternoon Mass holiday spirits contribute the liveliness of these people (Walker 252). A large reason for their comfort and "live for the moment" attitude was that Creoles did not move west like most other colonists to claim land. Instead they stayed in relatively the same area and just grew in population without consumption of other lands . This caused a shortage of land so it had to be repeatedly divided among the families and it also made it difficult for the plantation system to operate successfully (Walker 253).
Background of Creoles: Until 1888 the husband was legal guardian and was given custody of the children when in a divorce. In the 1890 segregation was legalized (Jim Crow laws), but blacks horizons were expanding also. "In Louisiana after the Civil War, African American men had voted in large numbers, held public office, served on juries, and worked on the railroad"(Culley 119).
In Creole society people are generally very warm and open, having plentiful long relationships. A mother?s relationship with her children is usually very close, loving, and caring. The children are usually constantly pampered by their mother. Creole women, " . . . were women who idolized their children worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels" (Chopin 16). Edna Pontellier, was not this type of mother though, she ". . . was not a mother-woman"(Chopin 16). Edna is just not able to fit in to the Creole society because she was raised in such a foreign way from what Creoles exhibit, it is just too difficult. Just little signs of affection towards her are difficult for her to grasp, "? she becomes confused when Madame Ratignolle touches her hand during a conversation" (Walker 254). "?She was not accustomed to an outward and spoken expression of affection, either in herself or others?" (Walker 254). Unbelievably, Edna and her husband are the most distant of all people because they were basically forced into marriage. He limits her and this infuriates her to the point where she gives up and just does as she pleases. He does this by speaking to her like a kid and treating her like a piece of property that he drags around because it is inproper for a man of his stature not to be married (Chopin 7). Robert is the only person in which she has a full relationship with. Unfortunately their relationship is limited they can only truly be friends. Since Adele Ratignolle doesn?t want this relationship to be taken too far or seriously she tells Robert, "She is not one of us; she is not like us. She make the unfortunate blunder of taking you seriously" (Walker 254). The relationships that Edna has just continue to confuse her and inspire her at the same time. This confuses her, making her think that she is fitting in fine