Art & Identity in New Orleans

HNRS 109 Spring '18

Gender Roles in Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”

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Rebellion from the main character Mrs. Pontellier is something made clear from the get-go, at first in a subtle way. Mrs. Pontellier rejects the strict rules for women in this time period. At the start of the book this is a legitimate issue to her husband, who complains about her lack of interest and care that she gives their children. Gender roles are brought up when Mr. Pontellier thinks, “If it was not a mother’s place to look after children, whose on earth was it?” (pg. 7). The idea that a man could care for his children instead of the mother was far-fetched, and his argument is that since he works, it should not be his job to be a caretaker for the children. Mrs. Pontellier soon after this conversation finds herself crying but claims she does not know why. The way Kate Chopin presents the confrontation between the couple is very realistic to the way women can become frustrated with society and the way women’s role in it is perceived, though we’ve already seen that Edna Pontellier has very little interest in what women are supposed to be concerned with, such as being the adoring wife and devote child caretaker. She is conflicted because while she knows it should not have to be this way, she also feels how kind and loving her husband can be despite his misogynistic views. This is another thing that women today are still dealing with: while we may love our significant others, they may not always share the same progressive views as us and may still stick to the belief of gender roles.

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