About 10 to 14 million people in the United States suffer depression. These people often cry, and may lose interest in work and social life. Some depressed patients often try to harm or kill themselves. Throughout The Awakening, a novel written by Kate Chopin, the main character, Edna Pontellier showed signs of a growing depression. She is unhappy with her marriage and doesn't take on her role as a mother. Joyce Dyer believes that "Edna senses that a woman's identity as a human being is more important than her role as a mother".
(Dyer, 100) Another critic, Barbara Ewell, states that, "Edna rejects the false definitions that have been imposed upon her: Leonce's wife and possession", and "a self-less 'mother-woman'". (Ewell, 163) Edna's depression, as time goes on, grows ever so slowly throughout the novel. There are certain events that hasten this depression, events that eventually lead her to suicide. The first incident in which her depression begins is when Edna's husband, Leonce Pontellier, returns from Klein's hotel, he checks in on the children and believing that one of them has a fever he tells his wife, Edna. She says that the child was fine when he went to bed, but Mr. Pontellier is certain that he isn't mistaken.
Because of the reprimand, Edna goes into the next room to check on the children. "She soon came back and sat on the edge of the bed", and "began to cry a little, and wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her peignoir". (6) At first, it doesn't seem like it is of significance, but Edna then goes out and sits on the porch and cries some more. "Edna is absolutely unable to 'tell' why she is crying: her deepest passions have no 'true' name".
(Wolff, 387) Edna's depression, and as time goes on, grows ever so slightly throughout the novel. Such happenings, like crying at night or not speaking of her problems, are nothing new to Edna. "Such experiences as the foregoing were not uncommon in her married life. They seemed never before to have weighed much against her husband's kindness and a uniform devotion which had come to be tacit and self understood". (6) The author goes on to describe what Edna felt during the episode as " An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish". (6) When Edna goes to mass with her friend, Robert Lebrun, we see another instance where she's not herself.
"A feeling of oppression and drowsiness overcame Edna during the service. Another time she might have made an effort to regain her composure". (35) For the rest of the day she lingers at Madame Antoine's, with no mind of what her husband thinks. He didn't know that she was going in the first place. She seems not to worry about what others think of her, except Robert. When Edna returns home later that day, she finds out that Robert is leaving for Mexico, which brings her to another stage in her depression.
She is rather upset with this news and afterwards leaves to go home. "She went directly to her room. But she did not mind; there appeared to be a hundred different things demanding her attention indoors". (42) She tries to ignore that his leaving and not telling her affects her so much. When Edna sees him leave it tears her up inside that her companion, the one person that she felt understood her, is leaving.
"Edna bit her handkerchief convulsively, striving to hold back and to hide, even from herself as she would have hidden from another". (45) Edna's life is incomplete when Robert leaves: Robert's going had some way taken the brightness, the color, the meaning out of everything. The conditions of her life were in no way changed, but her whole existence was dulled, like a faded garment that seems no longer worth wearing. She sought him everywhere- in others whom she induced to talk about him. (46) Edna begins to be less concerned with doing what her husband and society has deemed is right and proper for her. She completely ignores her "reception day" and instead goes out and does what she wants to do.
She acts nonchalant when her husband finds out and goes into a mild fury about it. He winds up leaving to go to the club to have dinner, while Edna finishes her dinner alone. She later goes up to her room. There she experiences another fit of depression.
She took off her wedding ring, threw it on the floor, and stomped her heel on it. She wants to do damage to something; it is her way of releasing the aggression and anger that her husband has caused her". In a sweeping passion she seized a glass vase from the table and flung it upon the tiles of the hearth". (52) Edna doesn't understand what is affecting her so much, but she finds comfort in solitude. She likes to be alone when she sketches or paints; it is soothing to her. She seeks solitude when she's experiencing her complicating emotions; "Or else she stayed indoors and nursed a mood with which she was becoming too familiar for her own comfort and peace of mind".
(73) Edna does what she wants in the days that follow, though some days she is happier than others. "There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why, - when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead". (58) In the solitude she starts to distance herself from those around her that love and care for her. Her moving from her husband's house is the first step in this. It distances her from her husband's control.
At the dinner party she gives before she moves, those that care for her surround her, but even then she wants to be alone. "Only at the end of the novel, does Edna find the courage to accept and acknowledge her solitary state". (Dyer, 108) Edna begins to admit that there are some things that bother her, but she isn't ready to fully discuss them; she doesn't believe that anyone can understand her. She explains to Doctor Mandelet, "Some way I don't feel moved to speak of things that trouble me... There are periods of despondency and suffering which take possession of me. But I don't want anything but my own way".
(112) Edna is not willing to talk about what grips her, and after Robert leaves her again, she becomes completely depressed and dead to the world. Hopeless, Edna returns to Grand Isle, the place of her awakening and happiness with Robert. Yet she seems not to know what her purpose is there: "Edna walked on down to the beach rather mechanically, not noticing anything special except that the sun was hot. She was not dwelling upon any particular train of thought". (114) Edna's body has taken over because her mind has gone: "Despondency had come upon her in the wakeful night, and it had never lifted.
There was no one thing in the world that she desired. There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone". (115) With her mind already gone, Edna's body begins to swim out into the sea, not caring about what lies ahead. "She did not look back now, but went on and on, thinking of the blue-grass meadow that she had traversed when a little child, believing that it had no beginning and no end". (115-116) There are definite signs of Edna Pontellier's depression, from the beginning of the novel and all the way to the end when she.".. swims away from the shore of her old life, where she had lingered for 28 years, hesitant and ambivalent".
(Gilbert, 99) If there had been someone who had noticed this, Edna might not have been driven to death, but she felt that no one could understand her wanting to be on her own. She thought of her husband and children, and also of Doctor Mandelet, whom she thought might have understood her problems, but it was already too late, she was too far from shore and her strength was gone as she swam "not into death but back into her own life, back into her own vision, into the imaginative openness of her childhood". (Gilbert, 104) So in the end, there was really no one that could have saved her from this fate. It's where she wanted to be, in a happier place.