In her novel, The Awakening, Kate Chopin shows Edna Pontellier¹s confrontations with society, her imprisonment in marriage and Edna¹s exploration of her own sexuality. Chopin also portrays Edna as a rebel, who after her experiences at Grand Isle wants to live a full and a free life and not to follow the rules of society. Edna¹s life ends in her suicide, but her death does not come as a surprise. Chopin foreshadows Edna¹s death by the use of nature and Edna¹s connection to it; also by the use of symbols, especially the symbolic meaning of a bird; and by the use of many different characters in the novel, such as Robert Lebrun, Mademoiselle Reisz and Madame Ratignolle.
Edna is a very romantic character, who turns to nature for comfort. She "seeks herself" in nature (508). But her surroundings are not comforting to her. She hears voices "from the darkness and the sky above and the stars" that are "not soothing"; the voices "jeered and sounded mournful notes without promise, devoid even of hope" (508). Edna wants to feel the embrace of nature upon her but instead she doesn¹t feel "uplifted" and hears a "mournful lullaby"(471). This gloomy presentation of nature foreshadows the future events in Edna¹s life.
Kate Chopin uses the symbolic meaning of a bird to deepen the meaning of the story and to foreshadow the upcoming events. In "The Awakening" a bird symbolizes Edna Pontilier herself. In the beginning of the novel, Edna is the "green and yellow parrot" caged "outside the door", saying, "Go away! Go away! For God¹s sake!"(467). Edna feels trapped in her marriage just like a bird in a cage and after she meets Robert she wants to "go away". Edna, the bird, decides to flee her m...
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...out Robert and a purpose in life, Edna chooses not to live. Edna¹s decision to end her life is the only way for her to escape reality.
"The Awakening" has a tragic end, but it¹s the only possible end for Edna Pontellier. Edna feels trapped in the "cage" of society, it¹s rules and standards, and she can¹t find happiness if she follows the rules. She cannot be happy without Robert, but Robert cannot be with her. Edna feels like a trapped bird. She sets herself free, only to find that her wings are not strong enough. As Edna takes her last swim she feels like a happy child, running through the "blue-grass meadow" that has "no beginning and no end" (558). For Edna it¹s the beginning of her freedom from all.
Chopin, Kate. "The Awakening". The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition, Vol 2:W.W.Norton & Company Inc, 1998.
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