Edna Pontellier struggles with her role as a housewife, and yearns for social freedom. Her increasingly unorthodox views on femininity and motherhood fuel her desires and passion, despite the prevailing social attitudes of the South. On a quest of self discovery, Edna flees her domestic role in search of love and spiritual freedom in a world that isn't ready for her.
The Awakening is one of the earliest novels that focuses on women's issues without condescension. The novel was particularly controversial upon publication because Chopin didn't condemn Edna's desire for an affair. Instead, Chopin focused on human behaviour and the complexities of social structures while exploring the banalities of everyday life and the consequences of social norms.