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Awakening Essay

1464 words - 6 pages

Symbolism in Kate Chopin's The Awakening The Awakening is a novel about a woman who finds herself in a spiritual, emotional, and even physical awakening. The novel is enriched with symbolism. There are certain symbolic features throughout the whole novel that add justification to the meaning of the novel. Having an understanding of these symbols with help to fully appreciate the novel itself.The Ocean To Edna the ocean is a symbol of freedom and escape. As a child she remembers the fields of Kentucky as being her ocean. The novel goes on to end with Edna returning back to the ocean, where she finds her complete freedom. Chopin's description of the ocean is that, "the voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in the abyss of solitude"(115). Most of Edna's moments of self-discovery are closely tied to the ocean. One great moment in particular is when she learns to swim, after being so long frustrated with her efforts before. The ocean has a very strong voice, "[a]ll the other voices in the novel are finally overwhelmed by this voice, which confidently ventriloquizes nature, and which promises an absolute reconciliation of "˜soul' and "˜body' through the medium of the "˜soft, close embrace' of the Gulf of Mexico" (Harmon 1).Art and Music In the novel art becomes a symbol of both freedom and failure for Edna. At the moment when Edna is trying to become an artist that is when she reaches her highest point of awakening. She sees art as a way of self-expression; and her close friend Mademoiselle Reisz sees the art as a test of individuality. As for the music, it plays an important role in the novel. Both Mademoiselle Reisz and Mademoiselle Ratignolle play the piano. Each woman different in her own way. Mademoiselle Ratignolle is considered, by far, a musician by Leonce, Edna's husband, because she plays, not for a form of art, but to keep her husband and children happy. He feels that Mademoiselle Ratignolle is the perfect form of a woman; she is a quite, reserved well-dressed, motherly woman. On the other hand, as for Mademoiselle Reisz she is considered to be the form of social outcast for women. She lives alone with no husband or children. She makes her own rules. She plays the piano simply for the art of the music. The two women and their piano playing symbolize the rules and regulations for society. If you play by the rules, then you are respected and well-liked, but of you're out of the norm of society and have your own rules then you are considered outside society.Clothes At the begining of the novel Edna is fully dressed, but as she progresses throughout the novel she begins to shed more and more layers of clothes. This symbolizes her shedding the societal rules in her life, and by doing this she exerts her independence as a woman. In the Victorian society that Edna lives in, women's proper attire is very confining clothing. It symbolizes the social constraints on...

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