Kate Chopin: The Awakening Essays Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Water, Sea, Desire, Birds, Chopin, Family, Democracy, Freedom

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/11/06

Introduction

The Awakening is set in three primary locations; The Grand Isle of Louisiana coast in the late nineteenth century; on Caminada Island, which is across the bay from the Isle; and in New Orleans city. The story sets off on Grand Isle, then shifts to the city of New Orleans and its conclusion is back on the Grand Isle. Edna, the heroine in the novel, has strong desire to find her true self and to live fully within it. She is devoted to this purpose, and this causes immense friction between her family and friends. In the novel, The Awakening, Kate Chopin uses the imagery of birds to portray the Edna’s desire to soar above social limitations of women in the late 19th century and the symbolism of houses and the sea to indicate the freedom that Edna longs for.
Edna is a woman who goes against the grain, defies convention and is focused on overcoming limitations imposed by society. She consciously acknowledges the existence of strong sexual desires within her, and she musters the courage and strength to actualize these desires (Stone 34). Her unrelenting pursuit of her true self and her commitment to embrace it and live within it strongly conflicts with dominant values that carried the day in her time (Stone 32). She breaks through the role that society has apportioned for her and in the process makes a discovery of her own identity, independent of her children and husband.
At the beginning of the novel, there is a green and yellow parrot caged outside the door. The parrot is unable to fly because it is trapped by metals bars of the cage. This bird represents Edna, who is trapped by the limitations imposed by society. She is restricted from openly expressing her sexual desires because she is a woman in the world that is dominated by males. The bird is crying “Allezvous-en! Allezvous-en! Sapristi!” (Chopin, p. 1). This is translated to mean “Go away! Go away!” Both the parrot and the mockingbird create the perfect backdrop for introducing Edna’s wife, Mr. Pontellier. The bird is crying to Mr. Pontellier to go away because he can’t realize the intrusion on its freedom to fly by being put in a cage. Mr. Pontellier is uncomfortable to read his newspaper because of the persistent singing of the parrot and noise from the birds. He walks away in disgust towards the cottage. The bird’s sentiments echo those of Edna who is in pursuit of space and freedom so that she can discover herself, and it seems to her that this space is being limited by her marriage to Mr. Pontellier. If only she was not caged by this institution called marriage, she would freely fly away and overcome the social limitation of suppressing her sexual desires.
The bird expressions are hard to understand (Chopin 1).The ideas of the parrot just like those of Edna, are difficult to be communicated, and others cannot comprehend them. The mockingbird is the only one that has the remote chance of comprehending or understand the parrot, but it only mimics and repeats what the parrot says without deeply internalizing what it means. Extending this analogy, Mr. Pontellier completely fails to understand his wife whereas Robert Lebrun has some capacity to understand Edna’s moods. This leads to Edna being attached to Lebrun and in the process engage in several flings with him. This is part of the journey for Edna to overcome the social limitation of being entirely faithful to her husband, and freely express her unmet sexual desires. The society Edna lived in did not afford her a chance to express herself and her feelings freely. The mockingbird, in this case, Lebrun, acts as an outlet for her desires because he can slightly understand her moods and desires. Through this illicit relationship, she flies away from the cage and somehow overcomes the social limitation.
Moreover, a bird is used to show Edna’s flight from social limitation of owning a house. After her summer on Grande Isle, she begins her quest to be in control of herself and own personal belongs. She moves into her new house nicknamed the “pigeon house.because it was so small and looks like a pigeon house” (Chopin 105). This is a house that Edna will enjoy the feeling of independence and freedom (Chopin 100). The nicknaming of new house as the pigeon house indicates that Edna is like a bird that wants to have its own identity and this can be achieved by flying away from the expectations of society and the responsibilities she has on her children.
Elsewhere, the sea represents the freedom and escape that Edna wants. The novel begins at the sea and ends at the sea. Edna goes to the beach with Robert to swim. The author notes “the voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” (Chopin 34). The sea enables Edna to be reborn; it awakens something in her, baptizes her in newfound identity she did not earlier realize. The voice seduces her persistently to engage in solitude and contemplate deeply about herself. It awakens the idea of her personal identity since it makes her soul wander in an effort to contemplate and find its true identity (Stone 31) When in the water, Edna is reminded of how deep the universe is, and of her own position as a human being with an independent identity within that depth.
Moreover, the endless sea is used to symbolize the nature of limited freedom she envisions. After learning to swim, Edna begins to reach out for the unlimited space in which she can lose herself (Chopin 48). The sea is endless and the reference to Edna attaining the unlimited points to her desire, not to be restrained by customs that defined marriage and motherhood then.
In the end, Edna ends her life at the sea by committing suicide. She is overpowered by her own desire for freedom (Xiao-qin 12). She had changed considerably; she engaged in open adultery, abandoned her children and left her husband through divorce. He lover, Robert, had hurt her by leaving. She is forever changed and is unwilling to return to her husband and children, and also she cannot move forward. She feels the sea will be protective of her personal freedom, and she decides to end her life there. The summoning and whispering of the sea feels like the only escape she has. It will be her final resting place; where she will rest forever in solitude (Xiao-qin 11). Therefore, in her demise the sea represents a horror of independence that is quite lonely.

Conclusion

In The Awakening, Kate Chopin profusely employs imagery and symbolism to tell the story of Edna, the heroine in the novel. The use of birds aptly fits the deep seated desire Edna has to fly away from the social limitations of women that prevailed during her time. A bird flying in expansive space sends signals of getting above the limitation and having a large pool of choices to pick from. The sea fits the unlimited freedom she so much desires. She can take forever swimming across the sea because its coverage is exceedingly extensive. The water in the sea represents a kind of rebirth; she is a new being, free, with an independent identity. The sea awakens her soul and sets her on a path of solitude and individual contemplation. She finds it the best place to end her life because then, she will not held back by the limitations she has experienced on land.

References

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Avon Books, 1972.
Chopin, Kate. The awakening: and other stories. Oxford University Press, 2000.
Stone, Carole. "The female artist in Kate Chopin's The Awakening: Birth and creativity." Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 13.1-2 (1986): 23-32.
Xiao-qin, Z. E. N. G. "The Call of the Sea: An Analysis of the Symbols in The Awakening [J]." Journal of Sichuan International Studies University 2 (2004): 012.

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WePapers. (2020, November, 06) Kate Chopin: The Awakening Essays Examples. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/kate-chopin-the-awakening-essays-examples/
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