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Social Restraints and the Effects Upon Leonce Pontellier, Madame Reisz, and Adele Ratignolle in the Awakening

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Peterson 1 Peterson, Nicole Period 3B Rayl English 11IB March 9, 2009 Social Restraints and the Effects Upon Leonce Pontellier, Madame Reisz, and Adele Ratignolle in the Awakening "She has tossed off the garments of false selves; she has learned to swim, to master the waves and move away from the shore to freedom" (Lant). Although the strict confines of proper behavior certainly trap Edna and force her suicide as she "awakens", the same social restraints affect every character in the novel, albeit in different ways. L�once Pontellier, Edna's husband, clearly suffers little under societal rules, being a man, until his wife starts breaking said rules. Madame Reisz has completely escaped the constraints of polite society, but pays the price in her near ostracism. Ad�le Ratignolle, on the other hand, has sacrificed her self in order to conform to society and thrives due to her lack of self-awareness. These three characters, who assist and hinder Edna's "awakening", are all caught in the web of social expectations. ...read more.


However, she is still accepted in their ranks due to her virtuosic ability at the piano. Her rudeness, though detested, is excused as the hallmark of an artiste of the greatest talent, although she derides her audience. This is all at Grand Isle, when there is less restrictive social distinction and all the Creoles come together. Once returning to New Orleans, she is essentially ostracized. Her very home reflects her lesser status, as it is located in a less "stylish" and expensive area of town. It is doubtful as to whether she even retains a maid, something unthinkable in the upper class. Madame Reisz accepts and enjoys her lower status, her near recluse status; she is surprised when Edna comes to visit. She has little use for society and its extensive confines of "proper" behavior, as these merely serve to obstruct her creativity and artistic ability. Chopin further emphasizes her distance from society and life in general in never revealing her first name, Peterson 3 which would permit a certain amount of intimacy. ...read more.


Society rules Ad�le's life, although she is utterly unaware of this. Peterson 4 The rules of society act differently upon L�once Pontellier, Madame Reisz, and Ad�le Ratignolle. Mr. Pontellier allows society to confine him, as it deems him prosperous, successful, and a good and caring husband. The only time he truly feels its confines is when his wife breaks through them in order to manifest her independence and self. Madame Reisz, as an artist, is allowed slightly more license than any other. However, she is a near social outcast due to her refusal to conform to expectations. A spinster with amazing talent and emotion in her piano playing, she is barely accepted into the drawing rooms of the elite as a result of her defiance of societal conventions. Ad�le Ratignolle, on the other hand, is esteemed and admired for her utter devotion to her family, as is expected of all women of the time. Almost simpleminded when compared to Edna or Madame Reisz, she is the societal exemplar of motherhood in every phrase and action. The constraints of society act differently on all three characters: they are all trapped, but feel the entrapment in different ways, or not at all. ...read more.

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