The Awakening

Kate Chopin's Liberated Women

Twenty-first century domestic statistics scream with divorce. Although the relationship between husband and wife is far more equal since the days of Kate Chopin's "The Dream of an Hour," rampant divorce and single-parent families still make it difficult for today's children and teenagers to trust they will marry happily. While cases of marital infidelity, alcoholism, and abuse are all leading causes for separation, divorced women everywhere, to some extent, share the cry of Mrs. Mallard: "Free! Body and soul free!" In her novella The Awakening and short story "The Dream of an Hour," Chopin advocates not only that the oppressed wives' escape from marriage, but also the further removal from any potentially constraining influence.

While Edna Pontellier's affections for Robert and Arobin magnify the lack of spousal loyalty today, Chopin's works condemn marriage more for the sake of preserving individual liberty than for sexual freedom. Mrs. Mallard delights in this newfound understanding; grasping the future, she embraces her own self rather than the prospect of new relationships: "There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women...

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