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Edna’s Regression to Infantilism in The AwakeningEdna’s Regression to Infantilism in The Awakening

Other Titles
Edna’s Regression to Infantilism in The Awakening
Authors
남승원
Issue Date
Dec-2021
Publisher
21세기영어영문학회
Keywords
Kate Chopin; The Awakening; regression; infantilism; mother; the Semiotic
Citation
영어영문학21, v.34, no.4, pp.255 - 278
Journal Title
영어영문학21
Volume
34
Number
4
Start Page
255
End Page
278
URI
https://yscholarhub.yonsei.ac.kr/handle/2021.sw.yonsei/6279
DOI
10.35771/engdoi.2021.34.4.012
ISSN
1738-4052
Abstract
After its publication caused a scandal that effectively put an end to its author’s career, Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (1899) was rediscovered in the mid-to-late twentieth-century by feminist critics and was heralded as a pioneering work of American feminist literature. More recent criticisms, however, have become increasingly harsh in their evaluation of the protagonist Edna’s capacity as an early trailblazer of women’s rights. In addition to such a trend in the recent studies, this paper argues that The Awakening is less a novel about an oppressed woman’s search for true selfhood than it is a psychological narrative that closely follows the regression to infantilism of a woman who was forced to grow up too fast due to her mother’s premature death and her father’s authoritarian parenting. Edna’s relapse is attributed to her missing out on the phase of adolescence during which one symbolically attaches one’s social existence to one’s physical body. This paper also delves into the issue of the influence of two female characters, namely Adèle Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz, on Edna’s psyche. Adèle serves as a mother figure to Edna, whose company awakens in her, albeit temporarily, the warmth and ecstasy of being completely united with a primary caregiver. Edna’s drowning in the ocean reflects her regressive urge to relive the infantile experience of being one with her mother, or in Julia Kristeva’s terms, a return to the pre-Oedipal stage of the Semiotic.
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