Symbolism in the Awakening by Kate Chopin

1361 Words Jun 18th, 2012 6 Pages
Symbolism in The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening by Kate Chopin is a novel full of symbolism which reveals much of the deeper meaning in the story. Within each narrative segment there is often a symbol that helps to add meaning to the text, and the understanding of these symbols is essential to a full appreciation of the story. These symbolic elements help the reader to make a connection between Edna’s world and her eventual awakening. Throughout the novel there are a huge number of symbols but three of the most meaningful symbols used are birds, houses and the ocean.

Birds often represent freedom and the ability to fly but are also symbols for something that goes one step further. Several kinds of birds appear throughout
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The mother-women on Grand Isle could be a clear example of this idea, they are represented as birds in this sentence: "It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood" (page 19). Edna is not one of these mother-women because she doesn’t give her life neither for her husband nor for her children, and that sets her apart.

Related to birds there is another symbol, the flight, which acts as a stand for awakening. This symbolic theme appears constantly throughout the novel. We can see that Edna escapes her life, her children and her husband following her own believes of freedom. In this fragment we can see that Mademoiselle Reisz guides Edna through her awakening, but she cannot help her forever: "she put her arms around me and felt my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were strong. ‘The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth’” (page 217). In other words, she says that she has to be brave in order to defy society.
The final symbol related to birds occurs on Grand Isle when Edna comes back to the place of her awakening in order to die. "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,…