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Dealing with Society Edna Pontelliers battle with social class

Edna Pontellier, the main character in Kate Chopins novel The Awakening, is a woman trying to form her own identity, both feminine and sexually, in the repressive and Victorian Creole world of the latter nineteenth century. She is met by a counterpart, Mademoiselle Reisz, who is able to live freely as a woman. Edna herself was denied this freedom because of the respectable societal position she had been married into and because of her Presbyterian up bringing as a child. The role that Mademoiselle Reisz played within society, a society that failed to view her as being a truly respectable social member, was quite opposite to that of Ednas respectable position in society. Edna was ordained in the Presbyterian ways as she became an adult in Kentucky and Mississippi (Companion 123); as one critic put it, she was of solid old Presbyterian Kentucky stock (Petry 58). Edna was raised in a truly restricted Victorian (Nikerson) manner to be an American womanwith a graceful severity of poise and movement (Companion 123). To understand the social order she was born into you have to look at the Presbyterian background she grew up in. Presbyterianism took the view that women were regarded as equal to men[but women were] the weaker vesseland should become subordinate to the husband (Wolff 2). In broader terms, this is saying that women are equal, but are still below men in society. This construct was reinforced by the fact that married women in Louisiana[, in Ednas time,] were legal property of their husbands (Chopin 121). By a broad range, women of high Victorian society were greatly scrutinized if they tried to step out of any of the normal set boundaries of their womanly positions. As a whole, Victorian society was based on a rich social etiquette that most would not understand today. Such social etiquette involved a woman being consistent in her duties to her husband, her children, and her station in life (Chopin 121). This station ...

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