The Awakening: The wedding chain.

In this text you can observe a husband and his wife at the end of the XIX century. The husband is a wealthy New Orleans merchant and this is why he controls everyone in his house and more particularly his wife, Edna. Mr. Pontellier often finds excuses to leave the house and go to clubs, for example it says here « The roast was in some way not his fancy ». The use of « some way » means that he doesn’t even try to find good arguments to leave. We can suggest that his excuses are very vague, not precise which can express his lack of effort to find a valid justification, or even that as a husband, no substantial justification is required. When Edna’s husband decides to leave he says « Good night », this can suggest the idea that he is not coming back for the night which can raise the question of cheating, of him having an affair with another woman. Here, we can see that there is absolutely no affection between the two of them as he doesn’t even call her « dear » or « darling ». Mr. Pontellier doesn’t even have to tell Edna to stay home and this can be explained because firstly he doesn’t care about her and secondly he knows she will not leave because he knows the idea of leaving never crossed her mind. Furthermore, at the time it would have been dangerous for a woman to get out alone because it could have been considered as an act of prostitution and Edna’s good education taught her not to do anything against her husband’s will. Women like her are educated so efficiently that their husbands do not even need to tell them to stay home and wait.  In this text, the main idea of Mr. Pontellier is that he is a disrespectful and careless husband. Also, the fact that he leaves Edna to finish her dinner by herself is rude. Clearly, the rules of marriage do not mean the same thing whether you are a man or a woman.

What catches the eye of the reader in this story is the fact that Edna seems to be on her way to becoming a less submissive woman. As a matter of fact, in the second line of the text, she says that she “did not mind” the scorched taste of the fish so this line can express a different meaning as well, that she didn’t mind contradicting him, which reflects the first phase of her rebellion against her unloving husband. In the first paragraph, the fact that the word « returned » is used can also hint out her rebellion as it can indicate a reply that is more aggressive than other times. ‘Indifferently’ means that she didn’t care what he was saying so we can say that Edna is bitter towards her husband. We could imagine that Edna is trapped in her own marriage so metaphorically, she could be a prisoner in her own marriage. This idea can relate to the title « The wedding chain » as chains can suggest the idea of prison and that the chains are preventing her from escaping this marriage, from running to her own freedom. In addition, the suggestion of money can be a relation with the first text we studied, from The Taming of the Shrew, as it says that the husband is the one who takes care of everything money wise, he is like the businessman and only breadwinner of the house. Both texts develop the same idea.

In the last part of the text, the sentence « But that evening Edna finished her dinner alone » suggests the change of things, suggests the start of Edna’s rebellion against this miserable marriage which is emphasized with the use of the word « But ». The idea that she finishes her dinner alone could also be a warning that if she doesn’t escape from this unhappy arranged marriage, she will end up eating alone every single day, as a daily routine as if she was finishing her wedding by herself. It relates to the idea of loneliness. Edna has a rushing feeling of anger which is shown with the alliteration in [f] line 27 « Her face was flushed and her eyes flamed with some inward fire that lighted them ». She has a desire to destroy something so she decides to break a vase but this can also propose the idea that she wants to destroy this marriage. The word « passion » can put forward the significance that she needs to find her passion somewhere else. A passion can also mean something that you can’t resist so that could suggest the idea that she can’t resist the thought of breaking her marriage apart, or that she still does not know better than destroying, in the sense that a more “modern” and financially independent woman would surely ask for a divorce and decide for a new life away from this one.

Edna’s little rebellion is put to a stop by her own maid, she stops from going forward with this disobedience. She interrupts Edna’s little moment and gives her back her ring that she threw on the ground earlier. Here, we can say that the maid symbolizes society that doesn’t want the women to rebel against their own husbands; they want them to respect their wedding. Society is organized in such a way that, as we said before, life can be unsafe for single women, as is suggested by the maid’s metaphoric admonition line 44 “you might some of the glass in your feet”. This whole situation can also drip with irony as the maid is a person from a lower class than Edna yet she still manages to control Edna just as her husband does. Edna can be supervised by anyone even by someone who is from a lower social status, which is ironic to the extent that when it comes to limiting women, everything goes, including the admonition of other women, however socially inferior they may be. Katherina did it too in The Shrew, but she was socially equal to the women she was lecturing. We can imagine that if the husband was viewing this scene right now, he would have felt proud of the maid as it is a woman controlling another woman. The maid could be represented as the perfect woman to the husband’s eyes, it’s just like a dream. Edna’s rebellion can have a relation with the title of the short story, « The Awakening » as it’s just as if she had been sleeping all this time until the idea of rebellion crashed through her mind as if she had awaken from her long sleep. Unfortunately, however fully aware of her situation she may be, neither she nor society are ready for the great changes that are needed, and her rebellion remains superficial.

By Jade, Pearl, Elrick & Lucie-Maï. Posted by Lucy-Maï.