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The awakening ap essay questions

Throughout the novel, this black-clad woman never speaks. Her lack of self-expression reinforces the lack of individuality underlying her self-governed but meaningless life.

The two young lovers are obvious mirrors of Robert and Edna, displaying the life they might have had together, had they met before Edna’s marriage. At several points in the novel, the lady in black follows the young lovers. Her solitude and mourning symbolize the eventual failure of every union and, thus, the imminent failure of Robert and Edna’s relationship.



Early in The Awakening, the narrator remarks that Léonce thinks of Edna as “the sole object of his existence.” What evidence does the novel provide to support this declaration?

While Léonce continually expresses devotion for his wife and concern for the well-being of his family, he seems to hold a double standard regarding his and Edna’s respective roles in their marriage. Early in the novel, Léonce returns home late after a night at the club, but rather than allowing Edna to sleep, he insists on waking her to tell her about his evening.

Moreover, just as one might choose one’s clothing or furnishings based on what they will “say” to others who see them, Léonce worries not about Edna herself, but about what others think of her and how this will reflect back on himself. He cares most about his social standing. For example, when Edna abandons her Tuesdays at home, Léonce warns her that she could jeopardize their place in high society instead of asking about the motivations behind Edna’s actions. Similarly, when he learns that Edna plans to move out of the big house, he does not express concern for her decision to remove herself from the family home, a symbol of their marriage and relationship, but worries instead about what the move might suggest to others about his financial situation. When Edna returns from her son’s bedroom, Léonce proceeds to reproach her mothering skills. He upsets Edna and then falls asleep, leaving her to deal with her discontent on her own.

Though he means no harm in his treatment of Edna, Léonce is not entirely blameless. His sparse knowledge of his wife may be the result of his prioritization of work over family. During their summer vacation on Grand Isle, he spends the weekdays working in New Orleans, “eager to be gone” because he looks forward “to a lively week in Carondelet Street.” Furthermore, he takes a long business trip when the family returns to New Orleans, despite having been concerned enough about Edna’s behavior to warrant going to the doctor for advice.

How might her behavior and attitudes be received in another place and time, such as in ancient Greece or medieval England?

2. What is Edna trying to achieve throughout the novel? Does she fulfill her mission?

3. Identify and discuss the bird/wings imagery used throughout the book.

4. How do music and art function within the novel and in Edna's life?

5. What role do children play in this novel? How is Edna like a child, and how do her own children affect her decision to kill herself?

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Before her rebirth, Edna was trapped in a perpetual childhood of feminine dependency. When she realizes that she is, in fact, swimming, Edna shouts, “Think of the time I have lost splashing about like a baby!” Edna’s shout of triumph symbolizes her shedding of the prolonged childhood forced on Victorian women. During the first six years of her marriage, Edna had resisted Léonce’s will only in momentary spurts, always eventually conceding and conforming to his authority. Now, however, she will no longer be ruled as a child. Becoming reckless and over-confident, she wants to swim “where no woman had swum before,” and she reaches out “for the unlimited in which to lose herself.

Throughout the novel, Edna feels caught between the way others see her and the way she sees herself. Identify several moments in which this struggle is apparent. How does the text portray Edna’s growing awareness of these contradicting views?

5. Some critics view Edna’s suicide at the end of the novel as a failure to complete her escape from convention—an inability to defy society once stripped of the motivation of a man by her side. Others view her suicide as a final awakening, a decision to give herself to the sea in a show of strength and independence that defies social expectation.

” Dread of death seizes her and she realizes the flip side to independence: she can rely on nothing but her own strength to get her back to safety. Her failed attempt to swim far beyond the traditional waters of womanhood implies that Edna does not have the staying power required to withstand the consequences of defying social conventions.

One might read Edna’s quick exhaustion in the water as a foreshadowing of her death, which is brought about by a similar inability to fulfill her goal of transcending society. Or, her suicide may be read as her “completion” of her first swim.


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