The Awakening By Kate Chopin Symbols

1006 words - 4 pages

In The Awakening, author Kate Chopin used several significant symbols that illustrate the actions and feelings of her main character, Edna Pontellier, throughout the book. Chopin used various birds, clothing and garments, music played on pianos, and lastly, the sea to symbolize the true identity within Edna, a woman whose search for her own individuality taught her the value of freedom and happiness. The Awakening started with a parrot in a cage, squawking phrases using a little of English, Spanish, French, and such a language that no one quite understood. Sitting next to the riotous parrot, a mocking bird joined an unintelligible conversation with the parrot while singing persistently. The mockingbird was the only one who understood the parrot. Chopin used the two birds to represent Edna and Mademoiselle Reisz. The parrot in a cage symbolizes Edna trapped by social conventions and the only person that understands her like no other is the mockingbird, Mademoiselle Reisz. Edna feels as if she is property and possession of her husband, Leonce Pontellier, and she wants to be an independent woman, however; she is imprisoned behind the cold hard iron bars of social conventions. Later, as Edna continues to awaken, she moves into a small house by herself and named it 'pigeon house'. The 'pigeon house' consists of only four rooms and one servant, however; Edna spends most of the time painting in the house. The 'pigeon house' symbolizes Edna's next big step in finding her freedom and independence. Chopin used various images of birds to reflect Edna's actions and feelings. From a lacy satin Victorian gown embroidered with passion-flowers and gilded buttons to the very flesh of Edna's naked body, Chopin explored the symbols of clothing and garments as Edna's rebellion to society. When first introduced, Edna is fully dressed and, as her awakening grows, Edna begins to shed the use of all garments required for a complete gown. This symbolizes the shedding of the societal rules in Edna's life and her growing awakening and stresses her physical and external self. When Edna gets back home with her husband from Grand Isle, Edna accompanies her companions in only a simple house dress instead of a luxurious day gown. The public, especially Leonce Pontellier, finds Edna's lack in clothing and garments as irresponsibility or disrespect. However, this does not stop Edna from stripping away from conventions of society. At the end of the book, Edna stands completely naked to the world, reflecting her complete separation from society. Every layer of clothing on Edna symbolizes the repression from society and every layer of gown Edna takes off implies revealing her true identity and releasing her from the societal rules. Chopin used clothing and garments to symbolize Edna's rebellion against the Victorian norms. Chopin created a contrast between...

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