Term Paper: Creole Women

Pages: 4 (1310 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Topic: Sports - Women  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Victorian Period, women, as exemplified by those in the Creole society, were deemed second-class citizens. Once married, they were expected to give all their property and rights to their husbands and be at the beck and call of their partner's wishes. The purpose of the woman was to be mother, homemaker and wife. Those were her sole duties in life. In Kate Chopin's book the Awakening, women were thus seen simply as exotic birds who are domesticated only for the sake of their beauty and ability to repeat over and over again words and phrases for which they have no understanding. However, what happens when the bird realizes that it can leave its cage and say and do what it wants? Some birds can handle this freedom without any constraints. Others, however, feel torn between the obligations back within the cage and the joy of being free outside. Thus is Edna's Pontellier's fate.

In the Awakening, a mockingbird and a parrot, open the first chapter. These birds' impersonator prattle represent the constraints of the Creole woman -- such as Madame Lebrun, who is bustling in and out, giving orders to a yard-boy inside the house and directions in to a dining-room servant outside to keep the household in shape. She is an attractive woman, always dressed in white with a starched skirt that crinkles. Meanwhile, a guest by the name of Mr. Pontellier sits and reads his newspaper and smokes his cigar, and is not to be disturbed by anyone for any reason. As a male, he represents the king of his own household, including his wife, Edna, and children.

The Victorian woman also has no say about her sexual nature. Husbands can and do have affairs. Wives, however, must be pure as their white starched skirt. Women cannot ask for a divorce, if their husband plays around; men can quickly do so, if the situation is reversed. Mr. Pontellier is said to look at his sunburnt wife "as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage." As Edna returns from the sea, she puts her wedding ring back on, taking it from her husband "silently." This represents the ownership of his wife with clothes and jewelry that signify her position as a married woman. Mr. Pontellier is a man thoroughly involved with the world of business, the company of men, financial autonomy and the pursuit of extra-familial pleasures. He is described throughout as a generous man, but one who is largely absent (Nolan 103).

In this Creole society, a woman's role is dictated by a patriarchal system and known only for her responsibility in marriage and to motherhood. These societal norms are personified by Adele Ratignolle, whom Chopin terms the "perfect mother-woman." She can be called perfect, because she does not own her selfhood, and is part of the "self-effacing species of nest-makers dominating the island" (Seyersted 134) of Grand Isle. For such women as Adele, says Chopin, the family "possesses" the self, "body and soul." Everything about Adele fulfills the idealized notion of women in her society, from the way she acts to her physical looks. In fact, her body is believed to be designed specifically to attract a spouse and bear children. Chopin describes Adele as "the embodiment of every womanly grace and charm," the "fair lady of our dreams."

Adele, in fact, resembles "some sensuous Madonna" -- on the earth for sensuality and procreation. "Nineteenth-century Creole ideology advocates a relaxed tolerance of sexual discussion and an indulgence in sensual beauty, but simultaneously demands an irreproachable chastity of its women (Seyersted 135). This beauty means a great deal to Adele. She is pleased to be "hailed" (Crane 301) for her role of mother-woman, and here to serve her children and husband.

When hearing Mademoiselle Reisz play a piano selection from Chopin, Edna begins to come alive -- to awaken to the artistic world around… [END OF PREVIEW]

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