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The Awakening Bird Essay

"Men have hitherto treated women like birds which have strayed down to them from the heights; as something more delicate, more fragile, more savage, stranger, sweeter, soulful - but as something which has to be caged up so that it shall not fly away." In the novella, The Awakening, Kate Chopin explores how man, as well as the society of the 1800's "caged" its women. By symbolizing women as birds, Chopin adds wonderment to her work and simultaneously encourages the reader to understand it at a deeper level.

When the reader is introduced into the life of the main character; Edna Pontellier has not yet been "awakened." She is, at this point in her life, symbolized by the "green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside." Edna cannot fly away to freedom due equally to both the social constraints she is bound by, as well as the family she is expected to tend to and raise. As Edna begins to experience things that lead her to her awakening, she realizes the bars she is trapped behind and becomes restless. The caged parrot, introduced in the beginning of Chopin's story speaks "a language which nobody understood, unless it was the mocking-bird that hung on the other side of the door, whistling his fluty notes out upon the breeze with maddening persistence." The idea that the parrot is misunderstood is a representation of Edna and her inability to relate to the society she is tied to. The only person who understands her is Mademoiselle Reisz, who is symbolized by the mockingbird that flits outside the window.

The other women in the novel are depicted as birds as well. These women are a perfect depiction of what Edna should be according to society. Chopin, however, makes it clear to the reader, that while these women may be ignorantly content with the lives they lead, and the role they play, they too are caged. The women of Grand Isle "flutter about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood." These "winged" mothers are only ever able to use their wings to shelter and protect, never to fly. They too, are unknowingly trapped by society and familial responsibilities.

As Edna pushes deeper through the process of her awakening, she becomes increasingly dissatisfied with the life she leads. In an attempt to escape, Miss Pontellier leaves her family and moves to the "pigeon house." The independence that Edna feels as a result of the move is fleeting, as she soon realizes that her new life is another cage, just "two steps away" from where she was before. The Mademoiselle realizes Edna's struggle because she too had undergone the struggle of breaking out of society's constraints, and although she has gained her freedom, she must fly alone and misunderstood. Through her own experience, she has learned that "the bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings," As Mademoiselle Reisz feels Edna's "shoulder blades to see if [her] wings are strong," she the shares knowledge and wisdom she has earned over time. Edna is warned that to gain her freedom is a difficult battle. The mademoiselle tells her, "It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth."

Sadly, as Edna becomes fully awakened and aware of the life she lives, she begins to feel hopeless, as she understands that there is no escape. As Edna goes back to the beach where her journey of awakening began, she sees an injured bird "with a broken wing, beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disables down, down to the water." The bird represents Edna and the desolation that has disabled her. She realizes that she will never be able to live her life the way she wants to. She sees death as her only escape to freedom. Her death is her final awakening. As Kate Chopin writes, "Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one's life."

The Transformation of Edna Pontellier in The Awakening Essay

950 Words4 Pages

“She wanted something to happen- something, anything: she did not know what”
(Chopin). In Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, the reader is introduced to Edna Pontellier, a passionate, rebellious woman. Throughout the novel, it becomes apparent how unsettled Edna feels about her life. The reader can identify this by her thoughts, desires, and actions, which are highly inappropriate for an affluent woman of the time. In the novel, Edna has an awakening and finds the courage to make the changes she sees necessary. Kate Chopin is able to make quality connections in order to symbolize her innermost desires. Chopin does this by providing references to the sea, and the birds, and then using them to foreshadow Edna’s end of life
decision.…show more content…

In The Awakening, Edna finds herself yearning for this type of freedom and independence. She desperately wants to be relinquished from her stagnant life of wife and motherhood. Kate Chopin chooses to represent
Edna’s desires through these symbolic birds. These solid references are scattered throughout the novel. They are first seen in chapter one, when Mr. Pontellier enters Madame Lebrun’s: “A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door” (Chopin) and, “…the mockingbird that hung on the other side of the door, whistling his fluty notes out upon the breeze with maddening persistence” (Chopin). These are, arguably, the two most significant pieces of symbolism in relationship to birds. This is because the parrot and mockingbird are in cages, representing the idea that Edna feels trapped by her current life. Also, the birds are squawking at
Mr. Pontellier, representing the voice Edna is unable to express for herself early on in the novel
(Shmoop Editorial Team). The next reference to birds appears when Mademoiselle Reisz says to
Edna: “The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings” (Chopin). This is understood to mean that if Edna truly needs her freedom and independence to be happy, then she must be courageous enough to go against the norms of society (Shmoop Editorial Team).

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