Symbolism in the Awakening by Kate Chopin

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Symbolism in The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening by Kate Chopin is a novel full of symbolism which reveals much of the deeper meaning in the story. Within each narrative segment there is often a symbol that helps to add meaning to the text, and the understanding of these symbols is essential to a full appreciation of the story. These symbolic elements help the reader to make a connection between Edna’s world and her eventual awakening. Throughout the novel there are a huge number of symbols but three of the most meaningful symbols used are birds, houses and the ocean.

Birds often represent freedom and the ability to fly but are also symbols for something that goes one step further. Several kinds of birds appear throughout The Awakening, but it is going to be easier if we go step by step.

During the very first scene two important birds appear: "A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over: Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That's all right! He could speak a little Spanish, and also a language which nobody understood, unless it was the mocking-bird that hung on the other side of the door, whistling his fluty notes out upon the breeze with maddening persistence” (page 1). This green and yellow parrot represents Edna who is caged at that moment of the novel. From this fragment we can also guess that the parrot is saying in French ‘Go away, go away! For God’s sake!’ meaning the eventual desire of Edna to ‘go away’ from the society’s cage. Just like the parrot, Edna also speaks “a language which nobody understood”, meaning that she tries to show others her idea of freedom but she fails. The second bird is the mocking-bird that is also caged and it represents Mademoiselle Reisz. The mocking-bird is the only one who can understand the parrot’s Spanish and at the same time Mademoiselle Reisz is the only one who’s capable of understanding Edna’s believes.

In general, caged birds represent women...
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