The Awakening by Kate Chopin tells the story of the birth of spirit within Edna Pontellier. Within the book, Edna transforms from the person she was into a very different woman. From a mother, wife and homebody, to the departure from all these, and finally death. Depending on the point of view, this transformation and the circumstances surrounding it could be either seen as positive or negative.
From a highly feminist perspective, criticism of Edna’s “awakening” is apparent. After all, it is a man who is responsible for Edna’s feelings. The fact that Robert is responsible for the change in events almost undercuts the feminist view. Also, Edna’s relationship with Arobin also seems to put speculation upon the true strength of her freedom from male constraint. It almost seems like Edna’s transformation is really the plot to a highly charged romance novel.
The popular perspective of society would also have criticism for Chopin’s book. The results of Edna’s awakening alone would be unpopular. A married woman who leaves her husband, deserts her children, an in the end kills herself. Not exactly a model for the modern woman. One would think that Edna was not making new discoveries, but merely unable to deal with the intense emotions associated with life.
I feel that the choice of Edna to commit suicide is probably the event that would draw the most criticism to this book. A moral outrage to some. A cop out to others. No matter what perspective, Edna deserted some ideal when she stepped into the water.