Use of Imagery in Chopin’s The Awakening
Several passages in The Awakening struck me because of their similar imagery—a bird, wings, and nudity. The first passage I looked at is in Chapter 9 where Edna Pontellier has a vision of a naked man “standing beside a desolate rock” (47) on a beach who is watching a bird fly away. This image was evoked by a one particular piece that Mme Ratignolle plays which Edna significantly calls “Solitude. ” Apparently Edna frequently envisions certain images while listening to music: “Musical strains, well rendered, had a way of evoking pictures in her mind” (47). Listening to this piece Edna envisions a solitary, naked man with an “attitude […] of hopeless resignation” (47). This scene presents solitude in many different ways. The figure standing alone and naked near the “desolate rock” illustrates the mood of solitude and resignation.
I was reminded of that scene at the end of the novel in chapter 39 where we find a description of a very similar situation. Now it is Edna Pontellier herself standing alone on the beach at Grand Isle. She takes off her bathing suit and is standing “naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her” (138) just like the man she had envisioned earlier while listening to Mme Ratignolle playing the piano. We find the same imagery of somebody standing solitary and naked on a beach. Throughout the novel Edna has searched for someone to be close to and the only one she thought she could find that closeness with was Robert Lebrun. The words of his note “Good-by—-because I love you” (139) are still on her mind when she is swimming out into the ocean. She has finally accepted that there will not be a union of souls for her with anybody and that everybody is alone in the end.
In the scene Edna had envisioned earlier the man was watching a bird flying away. At the end of he novel there is a bird as well, however, here it has a broken wing and is “beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling...