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triumph over tragedy
November 12, 1996
Triumph over tragedy
When we think of a tragedy, instantaneously the classic Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet springs into our mind. Thoughts of lost love and torments abound. The most human of emotions, sorrow, overwhelms us. We shudder, a chill creeps up our spine. We agonize over the tragedy, and the tragic figure. We lose sight of reality, and stumble headlong into the story. Enthralled by the suspense, captured by the Irony that, "we know" what plight lies ahead for the characters. We become enraptured by tragedies. We feel the pain, the suffering and the helplessness of the characters as the tragedy unwinds. However powerful a story Kate Chopinsí The Awakening may be, it is by no means a tragedy. The Awakening does not posses the necessary components of a tragedy. There is no tragic figure, there is no tragic plot or theme, and the ending is far from tragic.
First, tragic figures must captivate the audience. They must create an atmosphere that is shrouded in irony, suspense and mystery. These figures must also make the audience love them, feel for them and experience the anguish and pain they will undergo. King Lear is a great example of a tragic figure. He appeals to the reader, and captures their attention. The reader ends up sympathizing for him, and wanting him to overcome the obstacles which block his path. He motivates the emotion of the audience and controls their feelings. Edna Pontellier does not have the depth of character or ability to be a tragic figure. From the opening chapters she is portrayed as a troubled woman, one who is captured within a society where she does not belong. Her marriage to Leonce is one of convenience, there is no love, no passion, and no affection between them. Edna portrays a woman who is caught up within a life which does not suit her. She is, in all aspects a possession. Her every action is dictated by her husband, and by the accepted rules of her society. As a result of all this, Edna starts to yearn for excitement, for adventure, and for an escape. She begins to see her true self buried beneath the formalities of Creole life, thus she rebels. Edna becomes enraptured by the search for the most desirable of human traits, freedom. Edna has no tragic flaw or character trait. On the contrary, she knows what she wants her life to hold, and she leaps for it. All of her actions are aimed towards fulfillment of her dream. She wants to be again as she was as a child, free to wander, free to experiment, and free to love at will. Edna transforms herself from an obedient housewife, to a woman who is alive with strength of character and unrepressed emotion. These are not the actions of a tragic character. Rather, they signify a character who is in pursuit of happiness. Edna does not have the capability to be a tragic figure. She is not one who captures the love of the audience. Her actions actually cause her to be an unlikeable character. For example, she abandons her children, cheats on her husband, and lives her live in a selfish, self satisfying manner. Seeing that Edna is the main character, and the plot revolves around her the fact that she is not tragic removes the potential for the plot to be somewhat tragic.
Furthermore, The Awakening does not posses the plot or thematic aspects of a tragedy. The plot of a tragedy must be highlighted by some decline in hierarchy, or emotional status. However, in Chopensí novel, there is no such trait. Rather, there is a shroud of sub-plots which serve to confuse the reader into believing in its falsified tragic elements. The mirage of affairs and lovers which revolve around Edna do not have anything to do with the main plot. These affairs do however, add an additional element of eroticism. Edna does not become a tragic figure because she lost the love of her life or because she has no one to love. These do not connote tragedy. This is a false sub-plot. The true plot is that of a woman rising from her lowly state and
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Ancient Greek theatre, Narratology, Plot, The Awakening, Tragedy, Hamartia, Irony, Edna, Oedipus
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