“The Awakening” by Kate Chopin tells the story of a woman trying to break free of her unsatisfying lifestyle. Several of the characters in the novel are confronted with change or new ideas as a result. Chopin creates several moral decisions for the reader to experience also. Marriage, infidelity, and sexual passion are all themes presented in Chopin’s novel.
Marriage is a theme throughout the novel. Edna Pontellier and her husband are not the ideal image of happiness or marriage. Edna is unhappy with her “normal” life and with her marriage. She often recalls in her mind the men of her past. She wonders if she would have been happier if she had married someone else. Chopin more than implies that Edna is not content in her marriage. Edna, more than once, goes outside of her marriage to find love and understanding. In opposition, Leonce Pontellier is quite oblivious of his marriage. He acts as if the relationship between he and his wife is normal. He does, however, wish that Edna were more caring with their children. He goes about his work and sees no problem with Edna until she starts to have a life of her own. Only then is he concerned, not for her, but for what society may think of him. Mr. Pontellier’s idea of a wife is a woman that stays loyal to her husband, keeps his house in order, and takes care of his children.
Infidelity is also a major theme throughout the novel. Edna feels suffocated in her marriage to Leonce. She begins a friendship with Robert Lebrun in the beginning of the novel. He flirts with Edna and gives her the attention that her husband does not. In early twentieth-century fiction, or life, this type of behavior is not acceptable. Edna is willing to risk her reputation and the reputation of her family to carry out an affair with Robert. After his departure, Edna still craves the attention she received from Robert. Alcee Arobin is her next love interest outside of her marriage. They both use each other for their own selfish reasons. For Edna, Alcee is only a temporary replacement for Robert. Alcee uses Edna not for emotional fulfillment, but physical. Edna’s infidelity throughout the novel reveals that she is not only self-pleasing, but also is no longer conforming to society’s code of ethics.
Sexual passions are also common throughout Chopin’s novel. Her novel’s main character manages to have not one, but two extramarital affairs. Edna begins her relationships with Robert and Alcee with only flirtations and infatuations. However, she in both cases initiates the sexual relationships. She and Robert have a passionate relationship. They are very much in love. Robert loves and respects Edna so much that he leaves, trying to escape ruining her reputation and her family. After Robert leaves, Edna finds another man to satisfy her. She and Alcee Arobin begin sleeping with each other, although neither cares about the other. Edna seems to use Alcee as a substitute for Robert. Alcee just uses Edna for sex. They both use each other for their own selfish pleasures.