The Awakening, written by Kate Chopin, is full of ideas and understanding about human nature. In Chopin's time, writing a story with such great attention to sensual details in both men and women caused skepticism among readers and critics. However, many critics have different views with deeper thought given to The Awakening. Symbolism, the interpretation of Edna's suicide, and awakenings play important roles in the analysis of all critics.
Symbolism in The Awakening is interpreted in many ways. It is important to understand the meaning of each explanation of symbolism given by every critic to fully appreciate the novel. Art, for example, becomes a symbol of both freedom and failure(Wyatt). It is through the process of trying to become an artist that Edna reaches the highest point of her awakening(Wyatt). Clothes are also significant in discovering symbolism. When Edna is first introduced she is fully dressed. Gradually, she disrobes until finally she goes into the water to die, completely naked. Her undressing symbolizes the shedding of societal rules in her life, her growing awakening, and it stresses her physical and external self(Wyatt). Two modern critics, Neal Wyatt and Harold Bloom, agree that Edna is symbolized for her "quest for self-discovery or self-hood." Edna feels caged, which makes her quest very difficult. The use of birds in the story helps the reader understand Edna's feeling of entrapment and the inability to communicate(Wyatt). Much like the shedding of clothes, birds symbolize freedom and escape from being caged. The ability to spread your wings and fly is a symbolic theme that occurs often in the novel(Wyatt).
Many readers do not like the ending...
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...r that many people of her time found unladylike or even perverted. However, as time has passed and readers as well as critics find it easier to talk about sensual emotions, Chopin is now known as one of the most respected and brilliant writers that ever lived. Women had the feelings she wrote about and life was as discriminating as she described it, but only Kate Chopin had the courage to tell about it. Critics have given deep thought to The Awakening and with each analysis one reads, comes a new and unique awakening.
Gilbert, Sandra J. "The Novel of the Awakening." Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: The Awakening, Kate Chopin
Rosowski, Sandra M. "The Second Coming of Aphrodite." Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Kate Chopin; Chelsea House : New York, 1987.
Wyatt, Neal. "Suicide". http.//www.vcu.edu/engweb/eng384
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