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The Awakening as a Tragic Bildingsroman
I have always considered this a tragic bildingsroman A professor suggested that this was a love story. If it is its love of self or finding it. It is no more of a love story than Call of the Wild. I guess because it has a woman and love it constitutes a love story.
I agree that Reiz symbolized romantic art and ideals and Mme. Ratignolle. However Edna was less romantic because her confinement was real. Betty Freudian has this same sort of problem in the Feminist Mystique.
A physical independence as symbolized by the birds seems to be the best analogy for her needs through out the book. I didn’t think the hypertext guide quite covered this. Birds were present throughout the novel, in dreams and in her life (more than just that parrot). The fact that she was not able to be confined by anything which demanded her caged, her children, her husband. She did not enjoy these people or their cages because they used her for their own gain. A guy suggested in another class that she should have thought about that before she was married and had kids. I guess that would be easy for someone to say who will never bear children or held accountable for their existence, or dependence on him. (NO, not all men are this bad!) Her sorrow over Mme. Ratignolle’s child birth represented a birth in herself. An awakening that she had been reborn. By the way, the hypertext did not explain all the awakenings she under went or parallel them with the times she woke up and went to sleep. She tells her husband that marriage is a “lamentable spectacle”.
At the cottage with Robert, she was not Sleeping Beauty but a Rip Van Winkle. Sleeping Beauty was passive, Edna certainly was not that. The cottage I felt represented indulgence almost gluttony without the negative connotation. She is finally enjoying herself- HER- Self. The church was another oppressive cage in her life. Every mention of it in the book was a negative one although Edna says that she is religious. It just happens that her encounters with it in the book are miserable.
In addition, I felt the rings were not explained. There are at least five separate mentions of rings throughout the novel, each at critical times.
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The instances that water were mentioned symbolize rebirth in every instance, even the end.
Well, let me address the end of the book since everyone feels so strongly about it. Since it is never said that she committed suicide, one can not assume that she did. It is attractive to think that she plunged into sensualism and finally took control but somehow that just seems negative. Another way of looking at it was that she couldn’t swim well and she was experiencing for the last time societies strain on her. She swam out too far and couldn’t get back. Is this a metaphor? I think so. She began to live her life in such a way that there was no hope in it. Yes she intentionally swam out but the question, more importantly is; Had she lived what would she have done? She had leisure time and some “free will” but the activities she was allowed were very controlled. Had she a community of supportive women, other roll models, she might have lived differently. She could not have done it alone, and most of us can’t. We all need to support each other in this respect. Mme. Ratignolle, warned her against taking her relations beyond flirting, she thought their flirting was a new found freedom which she had never experienced and it was to an extent but she never explored liberating herself without dependence on men. Men would always expect to posses and she would always expect to be possessed (ch 34 middle). She doesn’t want to shame her kids by this cyclical empty love.