Art & Identity in New Orleans

HNRS 109 Spring '18

Giving Up Self


There is a critical line spoken by Edna Pontellier in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening: “I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself.” (64) There is an important concept here, one that is both intrinsic to the character of¬†Mrs. Pontellier and to the idea of self. Over the course of the book, Edna Pontellier is seemingly adrift in a lonely sea, unhappy with the life she is bound to. It is established early on that she sometimes wishes she could leave her family and her life. Clearly, she does not like the person she is forced to be. This makes her feelings on giving up her own self for her children even more powerful, and perhaps not as insane as her friend Adele¬†Ratignolle thinks it to be. Surely, any loving parent would give up their life for their child, but life and self are not the same thing. There is a difference between body and soul. When Edna Pontellier says that she would not give up herself, she is saying that she would not sacrifice her most core being, her very spirit. She will not sacrifice who she is for another person. In our own lives, this is something to consider. It takes great strength in character to be so bold in protecting who you are. True, the ultimate sacrifice may be death, but it is something else entirely to give up a soul.

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