Self-awareness and liberation often start with an analysis of the relationship between individual and society, a relationship based on the delicate balance of personal desire and responsibility to others. While societal structures, such as family, tradition, religion, and community, may be repressive to individuals, they also provide direction, identity and meaning to an individual's life. In Kate Chopin's The Awakening and André Gide's L'Immoraliste the protagonists are faced with such a dilemma. Often informed by gender roles and socio-economic class, the container or filter that society offers to shape and mediate human experience is portrayed in both novels as a fictitious self donned for society's benefit --can seem repressive or inadequate. Yet far from being one-dimensional stories of individuals who eschew the bonds of a restrictive society, both novels show that liberation can lead to entrapment. Once society's limits are transgressed, the characters face the infinitude and insatiety of their liberated desires and the danger of self-absorption. Chopin and Gide explore these issues of desire, body, and social authority in order to portray Edna's and Michel's search for an authentic self. The characters' search for authenticity allows for the loosening of restriction and embrace of desire and the body, phenomena that appear to liberate them from the dominant bourgeois society. Yet, for both Edna and Michel, an embrace of the body and individual desire threatens to unsettle the balance between individual and society. As Edna and Michel break away from society's prescribed path, both struggle to find themselves. Edna and Michel become aware of themselves in a variety of different ways: speaking and interacting with others, observing the social mores of those around them and engaging in creative activity, such as, for Edna, painting and planning a dinner party, or for Michel, teaching and writing. Chopin's 1899 novel The Awakening and André Gide's 1902 novel L'Immoraliste explore the consequences of individual liberation from the constricting bonds of religion, society, and the family. In depicting these conflicts, the authors examine the relationship between individual and society, freedom and restraint, and what an individual's relationship to his or her community should be.
- The body bound and the body unbound: rebirth, sensuality, and identity in Kate Chopin's The awakening and Andre Gide's L'immoraliste
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Statement of Responsibility
by Jessica McCulla