"The Awakening", Kate Chopin In Depth Ap Lit/Comp Report, Discussing 7 Topics, Each Topic Separated By #

2539 words - 10 pages

2) There are two major themes to Kate Chopin's The Awakening. The first of these themes is the freedom from social expectations, the second is suicide which seems to be the solution to the problems caused by the first theme. These themes are present throughout the entire book although suicide doesn't become apparent until later in the story. In the very first lines of the story the theme of social freedom begins to form. The author depicts a caged parrot which is expected to speak and contrasts it with the free mocking bird that does what it likes with "maddening persistence." In this case, it is a cage that represents social expectations. The bird within must conform; every once in awhile speaking how it desired, while the mockingbird outside is free to sing as it pleases. The next appearance of this theme is when Mrs. Pontellier is impressed by their lack of prudery. This is when she first begins to actually awaken as she presented with topics of discussion spoken with ease among the inhabitants of the island that she had not heard previously in her social group. The first of the many restraints society had placed around her begins to fall as she becomes more accustomed to the actions of her friends and neighbors. The first sign that Edna may actually be able to break free from these societal constraints is when she decides to swim out "where no woman had swum before." Besides providing her with her first sense of independence, it shows the societal bonds breaking as she swam out alone instead of joining the group in their sports and bouts. This is also the first foreshadowing of the eventual suicide when she "grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength."Soon after that, Edna shatters the first bar of social expectation. Instead of going in the house as her husband first asks and then demands, Edna decides to remain outside in a hammock. Although she does eventually go in, she has proven to herself at least that she can stand up for herself against her husband. Later on, when Edna abandons her Tuesday reception duties because she desires to go out, it is easily evident that she has already moved far away from strict social conformance. Not only had she abandoned a ritual with five years of force behind it on a whim, but she gave no thought to the reactions of her callers. The next case of her breaking through societies bonds is when she refuses to attend her sister's wedding. Although her father reproaches her for her "lack of filial kindness and respect, her want of sisterly affection, and womanly consideration," she refuses to be swayed in her decision. The theme of suicide is again brought up when Mademoiselle Reisz tests Edna's shoulders for strength because "it is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth." This foreshadows Edna's eventual fall when she realizes that she and Robert could never work out due to Robert's conformity to societal standards. Edna breaks the last of society's bonds...

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