Criticism And Symbolism In Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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Most of Kate Chopin’s, The Awakening, audience view the novella to be a piece of criticism against the ultimately confining world for women, especially in the time of the author. Edna does experience both a sexual and independent awakening in the book, but it represents a different kind of criticism than one of patriarchal society. Edna is portrayed as an adult-turned-child in The Awakening through various symbolic references which represent her decisions and sense of self as those of a small child -- misguided and uncertain. The novella also portrays two primary women who act as role models for Edna, and foil characters for each other. Both Madame Ratignolle and Madame Reisz are ultimately certain of their role in society, and are happy…show more content…
“[T]he sight of the stretching so far away...made [Edna] think...of a summer day in Kentucky” (Chopin, 16) when she was a little girl. Ironically, even though Edna relates the ocean with her childhood, she is unable to swim. This symbolizes that she was unable to pass through and fully experience her childhood, presumably because she was not allowed any experience normally admitted to people in adolescence due to her early marriage. Edna even admits she has “lost [time] splashing about like a baby” (Chopin, 27) and there is consistent imagery describing her as a baby in the water before learning to swim, which symbolically describes Edna’s lack of self-discovery. It is only after finally learning to swim that Edna regresses into childhood, abandons her adult senses and responsibilities, and begins to explore her own personality, as most do in late adolescence. After realizing that her personality traits are too contradictory for society, Edna attempt a regression into childhood one last time by drowning herself. Edna’s last moments are described with ”her imagination [which] resonates with fertility” and repetition of “the description of the sear which describes Edna’s first swim” (Stone). Each of these types of imagery depict a scene of birth, even Edna’s lack of clothing. This shows that Edna’s regression into childhood left her vulnerable with new realizations about herself, and that she is symbolically becoming reborn in order to discover herself without being confined by society’s harsh and strict character
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