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Essay about The Character of Mademoiselle Reisz in The Awakening

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The Character of Mademoiselle Reisz in The Awakening   

"She was a disagreeable little woman, no longer young, who had quarreled with almost everyone, owing to a temper which was self-assertive and a disposition to trample upon the rights of others." (25) This is how Kate Chopin introduces the character of Mademoiselle Reisz into her novel, The Awakening. A character who, because of the similarities she shares with Madame Pontellier, could represent the path Madame Pontellier’s life may have taken, had she survived old age.

Mademoiselle Reisz is first introduced at a party when she plays the piano for Edna Pontellier. Edna is described as being "very fond of music."(25) Music is described as having a way of "evoking pictures in (Edna’s) mind" and causing her to have visions of naked men, the beach, her children, and many other images, which in turn, she attaches various names to. (25) As Mademoiselle plays, a series of physical changes affect Edna. For example, upon the first chord, Chopin describes it as sending "a keen tremor" (26) down (Edna’s) back, and eventually, the piece moves her to tears. Days later, Mademoiselle Reisz and Edna coincidentally meet, and Mademoiselle invites Edna to visit her in the city. This invitation starts the beginning of a great acquaintanceship.

There are many symbolic parallels and occurrences that may contribute to the list of similarities between Madame Pontellier and Mademoiselle Reisz. The first similarity that can be seen between the two women was that of livelihood and talent. Mademoiselle Reisz, being the pianist that she was, based her livelihood solely upon her talent by teaching piano lessons. Edna, on the other hand, after becoming affiliated with Mademoiselle...


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...er inappropriate behavior in such an era would result in excommunication and estrangement from the community. Herein lies the similarity of character between the two women; that because of their past actions both Mademoiselle Reisz and Madame Pontellier would be labeled as outcasts by society. The only difference is that the actions of Edna Pontellier have yet to be revealed.

Mademoiselle Reisz states to Edna that in order to be considered an artist, "one must possess many gifts-absolute gifts-which have not been acquired by one’s own effort. And, moreover, to succeed, the artist must possess the courageous soul." (63) Although Edna and Mademoiselle share many characteristics that may possibly contribute to their future paths, they have one stifling difference; Mademoiselle Reisz possesses the wisdom to live the way that she does, Edna Pontellier does not.

 


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