Art & Identity in New Orleans

HNRS 109 Spring '18

Contrasting Quests

The rediscovery of “The Search” is one that affects both Binx Bolling in The Moviegoer and Edna Pontellier in The Awakening. These characters’ journeys are both marred by a sense of unease that, once acknowledged, spurs them to analyze their lives and the societies they are a part of. “The Search” causes them to become critical of the ways in which they go about their daily lives and become dissatisfied with the course they have set themselves on. Binx’s and Edna’s journey differs not only in their endings but in that they operate from different levels of privilege and freedom during the unfoldings of their stories.

Edna emerges from despair into “The Search” and finds herself still entrapped by the world in which she lives. Although she has become self-aware, she is still, in some ways, held captive to the despair she seeks to leave behind. Her situation is in contrast to Binx who, although he feels trapped by expectations as well, has more power to change the way he lives if only he sheds his apathetic instincts. The pressure from his family, although formidable, is not as all-encompassing as the societal pressures Edna faces. This makes it all the more interesting that Binx eventually cows to the hopes of his family and sacrifices his autonomy in order to settle into the safety of ordinary life while Edna chooses death as opposed to a life in personal captivity.

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