The Awakening

Kate Chopin

Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained

Quote 4

The pigeon-house pleased her. It at once assumed the intimate character of a home, while she herself invested it with a charm which it reflected like a warm glow. There was with her a feeling of having descended in the social scale, with a corresponding sense of having risen in the spiritual. Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual. She began to look with her own eyes; to see and to apprehend the deeper undercurrents of life. No longer was she content to “feed upon opinion” when her own soul had invited her.

These lines, which are found in Chapter XXXII, chart Edna’s growing independence. In part, Edna’s strength comes from her rejection of her social role. Her new house is more modest, and its small size disallows the entertaining that was such a part of her former life. Consequently, Edna believes that independence and social rank form an inverse relationship; she has “descended in the social scale,” but she has “risen in the spiritual.” Ignoring the expectations of those around allows her to act in accordance to her own impulses and opinions.

Edna’s association of strength and individual expansion with a total rupture from society seems somewhat erroneous. Ultimately, Edna defines herself according to her ability to disregard, rather than interact with, others. Her belief that independence and integration within society are diametrically opposed may underlie her tragic death at the end of the book because Edna leads herself to a profound solitude just at the moment when her sense of self is most acute. Perhaps, however, the society in which Edna lives does not allow her to integrate herself and remain independent. Because her society denies women the ability to think and act as individuals, a woman who asserts her own, differing set of hopes and dreams may end in an all-or-nothing bind.