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The Logic Within the Breakup

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The Logic Within the Breakup

The Awakening by Kate Chopin is a novel created before its time. It deals with the complex issues of marriage, love, and life itself, all the while remaining a shorter story with a simple plot line. In the novel, Edna, the protagonist of the story, slowly begins to experience a change in her ideas on what life is and should be for herself. Robert Lebrun helps her realize that being a dutiful wife and mother is not the life she wants to live. She falls in love with Robert, but he moves away to protect her reputation. Edna moves out of Léonce’s house and supports herself by becoming an artist, then she has an affair with Alcée Arobin to satisfy her newly found sexual desires. This theme of Edna maturing past what is normal as the novel goes on logically leads to her breakup with Léonce. Edna’s search for freedom puts her at odds with her husband, who just wants a dedicated wife. Her escapades with other men also serve to help severe their relationship. Edna is not the only one to blame though, as Léonce’s strict ideals leave no room for Edna to grow or change.

Edna’s commitment to finding her own path through life prevents her from being able to remain married to a man who would rather see her stay home at all times. Without even consulting Léonce, she left their home and took up residence on a property of her own. “Without even waiting for an answer from her husband regarding his opinion or wishes in the matter, Edna hastened her preparations for quitting her home on Esplanade Street and moving into the little house around the block,” (Chopin 84). Edna was desperate to be free now that she had found her true desires. Her decision to leave before hearing what Léonce would say emphasizes that Edna already knew what the answer would be. He was going to object to her leaving, so she left before his response to avoid any contact with Léonce. As one critic describes it, “Edna rebels against what being Mrs. Pontellier entails, against the duties of marriage and motherhood, against the role of submissive wife and perfect southern bourgeois,” (Werlock). Edna comes to the self-realization that she is not meant to be a wife and mother, but that she should live a life of her own. She goes further and further from Léonce as the story progresses. Edna’s need for a life her own eventually culminates in her decision to leave Léonce.

As Edna explores her new found passion with other men, it further ruins her relationship with Léonce. As Edna matures in the novel, she discovers a new sexual passion within her. “As she embarks on her awakening, mainly inspired by her growing sexual desire for the attractive bachelor Robert Lebrun, Edna begins to realize that the oppression she feels results from lifelong repression of her natural desires,” (Hicks). She falls in love with Robert and finds that she desires him unlike anything else before. This leads to Edna’s realization that she had been repressing her true needs for all of her life, but before she can act on her love, Robert moves to Mexico. Edna, however, is not able to go back to her regular life with Robert gone now, as she is just beginning to understand her emotions. She came to the conclusion that she had never really loved Léonce as she now loved these other men; “She did not mean her husband; she was thinking of Robert Lebrun. Her husband seemed to her now like a person whom she had married without love as an excuse,” (Chopin 77). Edna felt oppressed by her family in Kentucky, so she married Robert as a way to escape. She had been content with this, until Robert awakened her. After him, Léonce was never going to be enough for her again, so Edna went and had her affairs to fulfill herself. Having had these relationships that were full of passion, she came to the conclusion to leave Léonce for good.

Léonce’s moral codes and firm image of what a wife should be prevent him from understanding Edna’s changes and lead to the destruction of their marriage. Léonce is the perfect late 1800’s man. He works hard, makes money for his family, cares for them, brings them gifts, and is fairly sociable. Unfortunately, this “perfection” prevents him from understanding his wife’s

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