Learning To Fly: Chopin's Use Of Imagery To Illustrate Edna's Failures In "The Awakening"

1537 words - 6 pages

"The water of the Gulf stretched out before her, gleaming with the million lights of the sun. The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude. All along the white beach, up and down, there was no living thing in sight. A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water.Edna had found her old bathing suit still hanging, faded, upon its accustomed peg.She put it on, leaving her clothing in the bath-house. But when she was there beside the sea, absolutely alone, she cast the unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and for the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her.How strange and awful it seemed to stand naked under the sky! how delicious! She felt like some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known".In "The Awakening", Chopin depicts the life of a young woman, Edna, isolating herself from her ignorance, acknowledging her oppression, and thus making life-altering decisions. The title implies that subjugated women never truly live an independent life, as they live a life with a scheduled routine, where metaphorically speaking they are in a state of sleep. While sleeping, one does not have any control over her life; similarly, women like Edna, in the Victorian Cult of True Womanhood, did not have any control over their life. Nevertheless, the title alludes to Edna's awakening - she realizes her suppression in the patriarchal society, and thus must make a decision to either ignore this revelation or fight for autonomy. When one opens her eyes, however, one cannot simply forget what she has seen - therefore ignoring the revelation is simply not an option. Edna must choose between independence and failure. In the passage, Kate Chopin uses natural and clothing imagery to illustrate Edna's failure to transcend above societal expectations.At the end of the novel, Edna needs to make the choice either to remain in full immanence, which Mademoiselle Ratignolle represents, or to seek full transcendence, like Madame Reisz. Edna escapes New Orleans, an additional representation of patriarchal society illustrated by its tall buildings and patterned structure, for the seacoast. The seacoast is free and open, where Edna occasionally escaped her confinement throughout her marriage. While she walks around the beach, "the water of the gulf stretched out before her, gleaming with the million lights of the sun. The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude" (722). The sea illustrates Edna's weakness against temptation; it shines with a "million lights" from the sun and appears almost heaven-like with many rays of sunlight. The sea tempts Edna to "wander in abysses of solitude", a phrase...

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