Liminality, Personal Fulfillment, and Societal Expectations of Women in Kate Chopin's The Awakening

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Haley Clarke (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site:
Erica Abrams Locklear

Abstract: This paper will examine the consequences of Victorian gender roles and expectations for women which Kate Chopin confronts in her 1899 novel, The Awakening. I will focus on the novel’s female protagonist, Edna Pontellier, and the ways through which her character exemplifies the struggles faced by a woman who finds herself unable to adhere to society’s expectations of her. Edna occupies a liminal position, aware that she craves an existence of freedom and personal fulfillment through independence and self-exploration, yet unable to exist on her own and for herself due to Victorian gender constructs and her position in society. I will converse about the economics of the female body and the roles a woman can play if she is not content as a mother or a wife. This paper will have a strong focus on exploring the other characters in the novel and the ways in which they function in Edna’s path to awakening, either in inspiring her to free herself and become independent, or in demonstrating to her what she does not wish to be. I will also connect the novel to Chopin’s own life, as her body of work and the criticism she received serves as evidence for the themes of her writing; the body of her work, like the body of a woman, was harshly condemned when it stopped conforming to the accepted standard of society.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Victorian Period, Gender Roles, Kate Chopin, The Awakening, Edna Pontellier

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