Kate Chopin brings out the essence of Creole society through the characters of her novel, “The Awakening”.In the novel, Edna Pontellier faces many problems because she is an outcast from society.
As a result of her isolation from society she has to learn to fit in and deal with her problems.This situation causes her to go through a series of awakenings which help her find herself, but this also causes problems with her husband due in part for her loss of respect for him and the society she lives in.Throughout the novel she is faced with unfavorable circumstances that confuse and eventually kill her. Kate Chopin uses Creole society in the 1890s as a basis for her novel and expresses this through Creole women, personal relationships, and etiquette.“The Awakening”, is a novel based on the lifestyle of French Creoles.Creoles, the descendents of French and Spanish colonists, comprised the French Creole Society of the 1700’s.
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They had strong family unity based on the teachings of Catholicism, but they were considered outcasts of Anglo- American society.Clement Eaton stated, “the Creoles, to a greater degree then Anglo-Americans, lived a life of sensation and careless enjoyment.They loved to dance, gamble, fish, attend feasts, play on the fiddle, and to live without much thought of the morrow.” (Eaton 252).Creoles were very lively outgoing people because of their comfortably tight society.
Activities such as Mardi Gras and holiday spirits from Sunday afternoon Mass contributed greatly to the liveliness of these people (Walker 252).A large reason for their comfort and “live for the moment” attitude was that Creoles did not move west like most other colonists to claim land.Instead, they stayed in relatively the same area and grew in population without consumption of other lands.
This caused a shortage of land, which had to be frequently divided among the families.This made it difficult for the plantation system to operate successfully (Walker 253).In traditional Creoles marriages, such as in the time of 1888, the husband was the legal guardian and was given custody of children in a divorce.In the 1890’s, the Jim Crow law legalized segregation, but African American horizons continued to expand.“In Louisiana after the Civil War, African American men voted in large numbers, held public office, served on juries, and worked on the railroad“(Culley 119).
In Creole society, people are generally very warm and open, and have plentiful, long relationships.A mother’s relationship with her children is usually very close, loving, caring with a constant pampering of the children.Creole women, “ . .
. were women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels” (Chopin 16).Edna Pontellier, was not this type of mother.She “ . .
. was not a mother-woman”(Chopin 16).Edna is unable to fit into the Creole society.
She was raised in such a foreign way from what Creoles exhibit, and fitting in is just too difficult for her.Little signs of affection were difficult for her to grasp, “… she becomes confused when Madame Ratignolle touches her hand during a conversation” (Walker 254).“’She was not accustomed to an outward and spoken expression of affection, either in herself or others’” (Walker 254).Unbelievably so, Edna and her husband were distant, having been forced into marriage.He limits her life. This infuriates Edna to the point where she gives up and just does as she pleases.
He tries to control her by speaking to her like a child and treating her as if she were a piece of property that he drags along.He does this because it is improper for a man of his stature not to be married (Chopin 7).Robert is the only person Edna is not distant with.Unfortunately their relationship is limited to only a friendship.Since Adele Ratignolle doesn’t want this relationship to be taken too far or too seriously, she tells Robert, “She is not one of us; she is not like us.
She makes the unfortunate blunder of taking you seriously” (Walker 254).The relationship that Edna has continues to both confuse her and inspire her at the same time.This confuses Edna by making her think she is fitting in when, in fact, she is in a mess and is too deep to be changed into a French-Creole women of any standards.
French-Creole women are thought of and shown to be very well rounded, admirable women.They have many talents, skills, and a special way of life. “Creole Women are artistic by nature; they paint, play and sing” (Shaffter 137).They not only speak French, but they usually speak several other languages as well.In their speech, they are usually very clear and articulate using gestures to ensure their point.Women in the Creole culture tend to be beautiful with a dark complexion, with long.