The Importance of Setting and Symbols in "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin

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Ranging from caged parrots to the meadow in Kentucky, symbols and settings in The Awakening are prominent and provide a deeper meaning than the text does alone. Throughout The Awakening by Kate Chopin, symbols and setting recur representing Edna’s current progress in her awakening. The reader can interpret these and see a timeline of Edna’s changes and turmoil as she undergoes her changes and awakening.
The setting Edna is in directly affects her temperament and awakening: Grand Isle provides her with a sense of freedom; New Orleans, restriction; the “pigeon house”, relief from social constraints. While at Grand Isle, Edna feels more freedom than she does at her conventional home in New Orleans. Instead of “Mrs. Pontellier… remaining in
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When Edna eats dinner with Leonce after going out on Tuesday, he exclaims, “Out!... Why, what could have taken you out on Tuesday? What did you have to do?” (Chopin 85). Leonce’s remark of disgust and anger exemplifies the harsh social structure of the Creole society. Edna wants to go out while in New Orleans, but society’s gender roles see it as inappropriate; yet, Edna still goes out and follows her heart, showing another chapter in her awakening. When Edna has her party at the pigeon house, she shows another chapter in her awakening, “this time, however, she casts herself as a queen, as opposed to the virginal Snow White she enacted at Madame Antoine's” (Euripidies). When Edna is finally in a setting where she does not have social restraints she shows her true self and comes off as a queen – something most women of this era are not capable of. This image gives Edna a sense of independence and liberty, which is yet another milestone in her awakening.
The stepping stones in Edna’s awakening can be seen through symbols: birds, clothes, and even the ocean. The symbols of caged birds in The Awakening represent Edna’s entrapment as a wife and mother, along with all of the other Victorian women. When Leonce is sitting by the parrots reading his newspaper, the parrot spoke, “a language which nobody understood” (Chopin 5). Edna, just like the parrot, can not be understood. Edna can not communicate her feelings with others, her feelings being the “language” that nobody…