The Awakening

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Brandon Davidson
AP English
Ms. Rawson
Essay #3
Topic #7
712

“It’s The Symbol of Life”

The Awakening, a novel by Kate Chopin, has a number of symbols that reveal a deeper meaning. These symbolic elements make the connection between Edna Pontellier’s world and her eventual awakening more visual. These symbols show how Edna wants her life to be lived, and how she wants to love life in a different way. Throughout the novel, there are three prominent symbols: birds, houses, and the ocean, that each means a significant progression to Edna’s final decision to take away all of the unhappiness.

In the beginning of the novel, Kate Chopin introduces Madame Lebrun’s caged Parrot and Mockingbird, speaking and making noises that no one can understand. These two birds represent Edna Pontellier and Mademoiselle Reiz, in which they are limited by society and do not get understood. Each woman has a desire not to conform to society, but to soar above it like birds. When Mademoiselle Reiz sees that Edna is trying to live above the norm she warns, “The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.”(83) Likewise Chopin uses a bird “with a broken wing beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water,” to symbolize the inability of Edna achieving her un-caged/free life. The use of birds as a symbol, visualizes that Edna and many other Victorian women are caged by society, and some need a way out of the norm.

Throughout this novel, Edna stays in many houses; each having a significant role in the progress of her awakening. In the first houses, Cottages on Grand isle, Edna just lives the Victorian norm, being subjective to their spouses and children. Also in the Big House in New Orleans, Edna stays within the roles of society, by being a motherly and wifely role. However, when she becomes ill, during mass on the island Cheniere Caminada, she returns Madame Antoine’s home with Robert...
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