The Awakening

The Development of Edna Pontellier's Character

Characters win the reader's attention through common grounds of understanding, situation, or personality. Playing the major role, protagonists possess distinguishing characteristics of a complex character. In The Awakening, Kate Chopin develops the protagonist's appearance through direct and dramatic description, her personality through her reactions, and her role through the relationship with the theme.

The first physical description of Edna Pontellier occurs when her husband's comments of her sunburn cause her to look at her "strong, shapely" hands (7). Only after lifting her lawn sleeves above the wrist does she remember the rings that she removed, of which one is her wedding ring. Her "quick and bright" eyes closely match her thick, wavy, yellowish brown hair (9). Gazing intently at an object, she often loses herself in an "inward maze of contemplation" (9). Unlike the "faultless Madonna," Madame Ratignolle, Edna's physique leans towards the gentle beauty of "poise and movement" (27). Intertwining the physical appearance of the twenty-eight year old protagonist with the development of her personality, Chopin further establishes the role of the character.


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