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The Transformation Of Edna Pontellier In The Awakening

888 words - 4 pages

“She wanted something to happen- something, anything: she did not know what”
(Chopin). In Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, the reader is introduced to Edna Pontellier, a
passionate, rebellious woman. Throughout the novel, it becomes apparent how unsettled Edna
feels about her life. The reader can identify this by her thoughts, desires, and actions, which are
highly inappropriate for an affluent woman of the time. In the novel, Edna has an awakening
and finds the courage to make the changes she sees necessary. Kate Chopin is able to make
quality connections in order to symbolize her innermost desires. Chopin does this by providing
references to the sea, and the birds, and then using them to foreshadow Edna’s end of life
decision.

The sea is typically used in order to express strength, life/ death, and calmness. In The
Awakening, Kate Chopin uses the sea as a way to communicate Edna’s strength and
empowerment. Two references that examine this idea are made available: one for the
transformation of her body and one for the transformation of her mind. Edna’s learn-to-swim
experience transforms her body during her awakening. Overcoming her fears and learning to
swim is a significant experience because it shows how she is able to gain control over her body:
“The voice of the sea speaks to the soul” (Chopin). This is a powerful statement due to the fact
that it represents how Edna undergoes a dramatic change in character. She goes from listening
and acting upon the influences of society, to following her own mind and innermost desires.
These both play a large part in understanding Edna’s personal transformation from a quiet and
fearful girl to an empowered and independent woman.

Across many forms of art, birds are often used to symbolize the future and freedom:
“Their ability to soar high into the sky and their proximity with the sky makes them desirable for
humans who cannot fly without substitute wings” (Mascarenhas). In The Awakening, Edna finds
herself yearning for this type of freedom and independence. She desperately wants to be
relinquished from her stagnant life of wife and motherhood. Kate Chopin chooses to represent
Edna’s desires through these symbolic birds. These solid references are scattered throughout the
novel. They are first seen in chapter one, when Mr. Pontellier enters Madame Lebrun’s: “A
green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door” (Chopin) and, “…the mockingbird
that hung on the other side of the door, whistling his fluty notes out upon the breeze with
maddening persistence” (Chopin). These are, arguably, the two most significant pieces of
symbolism in relationship to birds. This is because the parrot and mockingbird are in cages,
representing the idea that Edna feels trapped by her current life. Also, the birds are squawking at
Mr. Pontellier, representing the voice Edna is unable to express for herself early on in the novel
(Shmoop Editorial...

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