Art & Identity in New Orleans

HNRS 109 Spring '18

Property vs. Spouse in Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”

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The inequalities between men and women are present throughout the entirety of The Awakening.  More specifically, they are present in the marriage of Léonce and Edna. Léonce views his wife as a piece of property more than a life partner. This is apparent when Léonce responds to Edna returning home with a sunburn, “looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage.”  (The Awakening, Kate Chopin; Page 4) There are countless more examples of this scenario throughout the book, such as when Edna abandons her reception day. After further evaluating the relations between Edna and Léonce, it is clear that Léonce is in the marriage more as a superficial business, as a means of corporate gain, than for the love of his wife and family. It is interesting to see how as a husband, Léonce believes money and extravagant gifts supplement emotional connection and attachment in his marriage. Edna’s response is even more intriguing as she becomes more independent and engages in affairs, eventually falling in love with Robert Lebrun.  Kate Chopin further emphasizes the inequality in this partnership by referring to Edna more commonly as Léonce’s wife than with her own given name when in context regarding to Léonce.

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