In the nineteenth century, women were compelled to precise social duties in male dominated societies.Their jobs were to take care of the home, raise the children, make sure there was peace in the family, follow a husband's orders, and make the home a comfortable and carefree place to live.In Kate Chopin's "The Awakening," three main characters, Edna Pontellier, Madame Adele Ratignolle, and Mademoiselle Reisz, portray particular roles that either establish or contradict these social dichotomies.Each woman's representation of character in the nineteenth century helps illustrate the feminist movement in America, a continuous struggle that has helped shaped the lives of women in today's society.
Edna Pontellier, the main character of the story, is a woman who does not only acknowledge her own wants and desires, but also has the strength and courage to act on them.Edna is a "handsome," engaging woman who is valued by society for her physical appearance. Breaking through the role that has been appointed to her by society, she discovers her own identity independent of her husband and children.At the beginning of the novel, Edna is comfortable in her marriage to Leonce Pontellier, and is unaware of her own feelings and ambitions.Author Barbara Welter's "The Cult of True Womanhood" presents four cardinal virtues that women were thought to have in the nineteenth century, one of them being purity.When a woman married she was to be pure until her wedding night, and once she joined in this union with her husband, she belonged to him.Welter implies in her essay that "marriage was, literally, an end to innocence.She told not to question this dilemma, but simply to accept it"(Welter 118).As time progresses, Edna Pontellier begins to see her marriage to Leonce as a life full of responsibility and unwanted duties, rather than a life full of passion.She no long…