October 24, 2014
by Kate Chopin
Social expectations for women have typically been for women to be soft spoken, dutiful to their husband, and motherly towards their children. Through the use of symbolism, Kate Chopin creates depth and complexity in the novel The Awakening to illustrate Edna Pontellier's metamorphosis in her attitude, behavior and her overall being to break free of the social constructs. Throughout the entire novel, the appearance of birds and the various bodies of water serve as Chopin’s keys of symbolism to illustrate and unlock the story behind Edna’s struggle to overcome the expectations that are thrust upon her.
Immediately in the beginning of the book the reader is presented with the image of “a green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door.” The birds have the ability to spread their wings and fly but are caged. This symbolises the strict social constructs for victorian women to abide by and conveys a feeling of entrapment to the reader. Whilst hanging in the cage, the parrot is screeching “Allez vousen! Allez vousen! Sapristi!” which translates to “Get out” or “Go away, Dammit!” This exemplifies and foreshadows Edna’s desire throughout the novel to spread her wings and break away from social confines and expectations of women. Chopin then goes on to tell
about how “[the parrot] could speak a little Spanish, and also a language which nobody understood, unless it was the mockingbird that hung on the other side of the door.”
(Page 1) In the means of which that the mockingbird is the only one who can understand the parrot, Mademoiselle Reisz is the only one who really seems to grasp and understand Edna’s internal struggle. In Edna’s first encounter with Mademoiselle Reisz, you can already recognize how personally the Mademoiselle understands Enda.
“The young woman was unable to answer; she pressed the hand of the pianist ...
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