Essay Use of Symbolism in Chopin’s The Awakening

Essay Use of Symbolism in Chopin’s The Awakening

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Use of Symbolism in Chopin’s The Awakening

--Passage from Chapter X, pgs. 49-50
“But that night she was like the little tottering, stumbling, clutching child, who all of a sudden realizes its powers, and walks for the first time alone, boldly and with over-confidence. She could have shouted for joy. She did shout for joy, as with a sweeping stroke or two she lifted her body to the surface of the water.
A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before.
She turned her face seaward to gather in an impression of space and solitude, which the vast expanse of water, meeting and melting with the moonlit sky, conveyed to her excited fancy. As she swam she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself.
Once she turned and looked toward the shore, toward she people she had left there. She had not gone any great distance – that is, what would have been a great distance for an experienced swimmer. But to her unaccustomed vision the stretch of water behind her assumed the aspect of a barrier which her unaided strength would never be able to overcome.
A quick vision of death smote her soul, and for a second of time appalled and enfeebled her senses. But by an effort she rallied her staggering faculties and managed to regain the land.”
--Passage from Chapter X, pgs. 49-50

Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” is wrought with symbolism, foreshadowing and careful diction choices. Many of the passages throughout the novel embody Edna’s awakening sense of self-reliance, independence and sexuality. These are sy...


... middle of paper ...


...y leads to her demise.

As Edna swims further and further out, the water behind her “assumed the aspect of a barrier which her unaided strength would never be able to overcome.” The vision of a barrier symbolizes Edna’s growing sense of a blockade between herself and the world. She is the only entity on the other side because she feels isolated and alone with herself. Furthermore, the words “her unaided strength would never be able to overcome” foreshadow Edna’s death. Foreshadowing frequently occurs through this passage. When Mrs. Pontellier reaches out for the unlimited “in which to lose herself,” it is hinted that she will bring about her own demise. Perhaps the most obvious indication is in the last paragraph when “a quick vision of death smote her soul.” Edna manages to regain land, but only with a struggle. Perhaps the next time she will not be so lucky.

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