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Some critics view Edna’s suicide at the end of the novel as a failure to complete her escape from convention – an inability to defy society. Others view her suicide as a final awakening – a show of strength and independence that defies social expectation. Which interpretation do you find more compelling, and why? Throughout detailed discussion of “The Awakening”, explore the outcome of this novel and compare it with the outcome of Jane Eyre.
While reading the book “the awakening”, you can interpret Edna’s suicide in many ways, ranging from her lack of emotional and sexual desires too how the society appeared to look down on her. Either way she is the main protagonist throughout, and in time you feel you get to know her character, often sympathising with her, as the narrator makes it clear, by frequently showing the support of Edna.
I think that Edna’s suicide was a final awakening, to show her strength and independence. She was a respectable women of the late 1800’s who finally awoke to the understanding that her life hadn’t been spent the way she had wished it to be, then finally acknowledges her sexual desires and also has the courage to act on them. Some people may not see what she’s done as strength, because in ways she’s representing selfishness by almost disregarding her “role” in the household, as a mother and as a wife. In the 1800’s, women had strict rules to abide by, in order to fit into the social conventions that were laid out, which basically consisted of getting married and having children. But was the process of self discovery, defying these rules and rebelling really the right thing to do or did it portray her inverse to the “typical mother”, lacking in the capability to look after her family.
The focus on the implications of her personal characteristics being displayed and changed really reflects Edna’s inner most feelings, as she embarks on her journey for independence and ambitions she hasn’t been able to achieve feeling “Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.” Edna’s finally “awakening” to the fact that she needs more than what she has, for herself, as well as not being able to stand the restrictions as well as “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.”
By breaking through the role society had given her, she discovers herself, and the independence she has from her children and husband. She openly rebels, after becoming fully aware that in her mind that her marriage to Leonce was the end too her life of passion thus is became nothing more than a responsibility and duty, to keep him happy.
However in some ways I could understand and agree with the first interpretation, due to the fact she fails to overthrow the burdens of her self as an individual as well as societies views. Alternately she’s running away from it all and trying to escape from the failure of her ongoing imagination, which is unrestricted by reality, so perhaps she took her emotional and sexual desires to far and conjured up almost an illusion, protecting her from the harms of her actual life; Almost becoming very childlike, seeing the world around her with a new perspective, ignoring what was expected of her and being blind too the consequences of her unconventional norms/actions. For example when she mocks Roberts “languages”, shows her conspicuously, neglect and lack of attention to care about what she is even saying.
Even though this could be due to her new found mode of open and free expression, she has learnt from the Creole women, it’s almost spiteful that her whole attitude and personality has now opposed from well mannered to overly open. There are a lot of things that outline her child like actions, almost as if she had to grow up when she was young, and has to make up for all the things she wishes she had done in order to become liberated. On the other hand she does mature as well, as when she first swam it was like a young child, with her husband watching over her, nether the less “She made no mention of her encounter with death and her flash of terror, except to say to her husband, ‘I
Thought I should have perished out there alone.'” He responded, “You were not so very far, my dear”. This helps Edna mature, because she can now see how she can take control of her own life, without needing support from her husband so often.