Edna Pontellier, the protagonist of the story, places herself in the position to be the individual going against society from the beginning of the novel. In the beginning chapters of the novel, Ednas characteristics and actions worthy of rebuke lead to a breakdown of her moral integrity. These behaviors eventually lead her to become a woman that not only the Creole culture rejects, but civilization in general can no longer accept. Ednas plight throughout the novel perfects her status as that individual going against society. Her reserve toward her children places her in abnormal standing. Her behavior, not necessarily of neglect but rather of apathetic involvement in their lives, contrasted the ideal motherly figure of the age.
Madame Ratignolle, Ednas friend, maintains quite a different air about her. She possesses the dependent attitude which the Creole society seems not only to encourage, but in some aspects requires. Although Edna loves her children dearly, and in spells needs them with fervor, she was more accustomed to leaving them with the nanny or a friend rather than looking after them herself. She would give anything for her children, but she would not give of herself.
In an age of expected domestic dependence, Ednas rejection of her obligations as a mother and a wife go against the tacit rules of the world in which she lives. Although Edna was outwardly performing the duties of her life, her heart was busy thinking other thoughts. Throughout the course of the summer, she falls in love with Robert Lebrun. Yes, he previously established he third wheel status in the families at Grande Isle, but this was another aspect of Ednas life that pits her against her surroundings.
As Robert falls in love with Edna, and she with him, her independent longing is inflamed, and her passions begin to overpower her self-control. Ednas husband, Leonce, is more in love with the idea of a wife for himself and a mother for his children rather than Edna herself. This makes it easier for Edna to let go. When Robert suddenly leaves for Mexico on a business excursion, Edna becomes despondent and unfocused. Maybe through the severe longing for him and grief at his absence she becomes intensely connected to herself. When she begins to paint again, she feels life once more.
In her visits to Madame Reiszs piano concerts she is moved to tears at the music that touches her soul. She appreciates nature all the more and values the glory of the ocean with increasing vigor. When Leonce is away on a business trip, Edna finally cuts the strings that are enslaving her to the duties of being a wife and a mother. She gathers her things and moves out of the house. She throws one last party, waits for Roberts return that she learned about through the letters written to Madame Reisz.
In the meantime, however, after becoming involved with Alscee, Edna realizes that her values and choices in life are no longer acceptable in the society she currently lives in. Madame Ratignolle tells her to simply live the life she is called to live the life of a wife and mother but she cannot do it. Edna sees the family doctor in her last days and he reflects her thoughts best by saying, The trouble is that youth is given up to illusions. It seems to be a provision of Nature, a decoy to secure mothers for the race. And Nature takes no account of moral consequences of arbitrary conditions which we create, and which we feel obliged to maintain at any cost.
Often in life we never see the consequences of our actions. We are never given the chance to see how our lives might be had we made different decisions. The story of Edna Pontellier, a wife, mother, hostess and friend, shows all too clearly a woman who is really a lover, a painter, an outcast, and a soul who knows well what might have been.Words/ Pages : 695 / 24