The Awakening

Immaturity versus Enlightenment: A Response to Nancy Walker's Criticism of "The Awakening" 11th Grade

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening focuses on Edna Pontellier’s sexual and emotional maturation as the protagonist frees herself from the restraints of patriarchal society. Nancy Walker in her critical essay “Feminist or Naturalist?” instead perceives Edna to be a timid woman who fails to mature emotionally, specifically citing her suicide at the end of the novel as a key example of indecisiveness. In fact, Edna over the course of the story continues to reflect on both society and her emotional state, and her many actions, suicide included, are increasingly calculated and deliberate. Walker’s assertion that Edna lacks emotional command is thus too narrow in scope given that she only provides two other examples: the character’s initial difficulty in participating in Creole traditions and her desire to be separated from Léonce (Walker 255). As such, the essay’s three arguments for Edna’s emotional instability—that she openly conveys her feelings to others, that she is blindly in love with Robert, and that her decisions are largely made impulsively—are invalid.

Walker claims that Edna frequently shares her emotions with others; in fact, Edna keeps her feelings private from most people, since she comprehends her effect on others. When she...

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