When society formulates a standard of beliefs, it forces its citizens to conform to that standard. Society condemns any literature not accepted by its standards in an effort to keep others from conforming to the author’s ideas. Yet once the author’s ideas take place in society, nothing keeps them from full eradication. People eventually latch on to the thoughts of the author and keep maturing until the pressure forces society to open its eyes, change its standards, and accept those opinions. By quickly condemning certain literary works, society hopes to rid itself of the threatening change.
The Awakening contains several beliefs unlike those of its era. The author, Kate Chopin, wrote the novel with the intention of expressing her own opinions about the female role in society at the expense of her career. At the time, society believed women should stay at home and stand by their husbands similar to the way a parrot sits on a pirate’s shoulder; in other words, society equated women as trophies or possessions. Chopin developed her protagonist, Edna Pontellier, as an awakened woman in the 1890s who desires independence, love, and passion, married to Léonce Pontellier, a typical man of the 1890s only to increase his reputation within society.
Although the novel ends with Edna killing herself and failing to fully free herself from society’s norms, The Awakening offers the idea of independent women working as they choose and living how they want to live. When Edna learns how to swim on her own, she commits to removing herself as a trophy wife tag, living on her own, and painting for a profession. Léonce begins to notice her newfound independence and describes her “as burnt beyond recognition”. By buying and living alone in a small house, described as a “pigeon house”, Edna removes herself from her husband and achieves most of her independence. A critic of The Awakening and a strong supporter of a patriarchal society, Wilbur Fiske Tillet criticized Chopin for tempting women with the notion they had a natural right to independence. He believed that “taking a woman out of her true place at home” could endanger society.
Society condemns any literature with beliefs contrary to its criterion in alarm of their ideas changing citizens’ beliefs, therefore causing society to completely alter its way of survival after already adjusting to a new belief before it. The Awakening gave more confidence to women of this time by helping to increase the desire for independence such as the right to vote within the United States.