The Nature of Solitude in Chopin's Novel, The Awakening

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The Nature of Solitude in Chopin's Novel, The Awakening

"The name of the piece was something else, but she called it ‘Solitude.' When she heard it there came before her imagination the figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the seashore. He was naked. His attitude was one of hopeless resignation as he looked toward a distant bird winging its flight away from him."(47)

"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, circling disabled down, down to the water...when she was there beside the sea, absolutely alone, she cast the unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and for the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her. How strange and awful it seemed to stand naked under the sky! how delicious! She felt like some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known."(138)

These two passages from Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening, both utilize much of the same imagery in conveying the nature of solitude, yet they do so towards creating somewhat oppositional representations. The instance of the first passage occurs on the night when Edna's own "awakening" begins, describing her fondness for music and the pictorial effects that it has upon her before she is then moved to tears by Mademoiselle Reisz's performance. The second passage is taken from the last pages of the novel wherein Edna swims out to sea, presumably towards her death. In looking back through the novel for this assignment I was struck by the similarity of these two passages and by the way that the imagery in them seems t...

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... attitude of "hopeless resignation," she portrays an attitude of amazed excitement as she describes the scene as "delicious" and her place in it as that of a "new-born creature" entering into a new world and existence. The male figure in the first passage stands passive and "resigned" on the shore, but Edna in her state of wonderment acts, defiantly choosing her own fate in the face of the same societal pressures. Tragically, her choice means death and conveys the novel's sentiment that in a repressively sexist society the only option for an "awakened" woman may be oblivion.

Through these shared images and the ideas that they represent, the two passages link and reflect upon one another and the characters' situations. This linkage enhances the palpable visual and sensual nature of the novel, thus beautifully presenting Chopin's multi-layered vision of solitude.
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