In her novel, The Awakening, Kate Chopin shows Edna Pontellier¹s confrontations with society, her imprisonment in marriage and Edna¹s exploration of her own sexuality. Chopin also portrays Edna as a rebel, who after her experiences at Grand Isle wants to live a full and a free life and not to follow the rules of society. Edna¹s life ends in her suicide, but her death does not come as a surprise. Chopin foreshadows Edna¹s death by the use of nature and Edna¹s connection to it; also by the use of symbols, especially the symbolic meaning of a bird; and by the use of many different characters in the novel, such as Robert Lebrun, Mademoiselle Reisz and Madame Ratignolle.
Edna is a very romantic character, who turns to nature for comfort. She “seeks herself” in nature (508). But her surroundings are not comforting to her. She hears voices “from the darkness and the sky above and the stars” that are “not soothing”; the voices “jeered and sounded mournful notes without promise, devoid even of hope” (508). Edna wants to feel the embrace of nature upon her but instead she doesn¹t feel “uplifted” and hears a “mournful lullaby”(471). This gloomy presentation of nature foreshadows the future events in Edna¹s life.
Kate Chopin uses the symbolic meaning of a bird to deepen the meaning of the story and to foreshadow the upcoming events. In “The Awakening” a bird symbolizes Edna Pontilier herself. In the beginning of the novel, Edna is the “green and yellow parrot” caged “outside the door”, saying, “Go away! Go away! For God¹s sake!”(467). Edna feels trapped in her marriage just like a bird in a cage and after she meets Robert she wants to “go away”. Edna, the bird, decides to flee her m…
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…out Robert and a purpose in life, Edna chooses not to live. Edna¹s decision to end her life is the only way for her to escape reality.
“The Awakening” has a tragic end, but it¹s the only possible end for Edna Pontellier. Edna feels trapped in the “cage” of society, it¹s rules and standards, and she can¹t find happiness if she follows the rules. She cannot be happy without Robert, but Robert cannot be with her. Edna feels like a trapped bird. She sets herself free, only to find that her wings are not strong enough. As Edna takes her last swim she feels like a happy child, running through the “blue-grass meadow” that has “no beginning and no end” (558). For Edna it¹s the beginning of her freedom from all.
Chopin, Kate. “The Awakening”. The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition, Vol 2:W.W.Norton
symbolaw Symbols and Symbolism – Clothing as a Symbol in The Awakening
Use of Clothing as a Symbol in The Awakening
In the novel, The Awakening, Kate Chopin takes Edna Pontellier on a journey of self-discovery. In doing this, she uses many symbols to show the relationship between Edna and the world. Clothing, or rather, the lack thereof, displays this relationship well. As Edna progresses throughout the novel, she discards more and more layers of the confining ìclothingî that surrounds her body and soul. By taking off her clothing, one piece at a time, she disobeys the rules that society has set for her, and in doing this, she exerts her independence. In this summer voyage, Edna becomes a free woman.
In the Victorian society that Edna lives in, the proper attire for women requires them to wear very confining clothing. This clothing symbolizes the constraints on the social behavior of women in this age. It restricts Edna’s body and impedes her freedom to move. At the beginning of the novel, fully dressed Edna wears all the proper clothing. However, when Edna and Adele walk together to the beach, Edna wears considerably less clothing than that of her companion. Adele wears a veil, gloves, and ruffles to protect her body. Edna wears a thinner, simple dress and removes her collar and unbuttons her dress at the throat once at the beach. She chooses not to cover herself as harshly as Adele. Adele portrays the picture of a perfect Victorian woman through her manner of dress. Edna’s decision to free herself more than Adele symbolizes her growing rejection of Victorian society rules.
Edna becomes distraught when she discovers her friend, Robert, is leaving. She goes home and sheds her clothes for a more comfortable wrap. She casts off more layers of conventio…
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As a final profession of her freedom, Edna discards her last layer of clothing until she stands naked on the beach. She swims out into the ocean and drowns there. Her final act of independence required her to end her life. She shed the final constriction on her life when she stripped herself alone on the beach. She frees herself from social conventionalism and at last opens herself up to do something totally for her own reasons and rules.
Throughout the novel, as Edna sheds herself of the clothing and possessions that surround her, she becomes more liberated, free, her own woman. The clothing represents the society that confines her and the independence that stripping the clothing gives her enlightens her soul. Kate Chopin uses clothing as a way of conveying the social injustice imposed upon women in the Victorian age in which they were trapped.