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The Use of Birds as a Symbol of Edna Taking Flight in The Awakening

Creating a social sensation when it was introduced in 1899, The Awakening was labeled one of the first feminist novels as it fell into tone with the rapidly rising group of young women who demanded political and social equality. The reader witnesses Edna Pontellier’s transformation from a caged beautiful parrot to a disabled bird that flies freely. The avian symbolism in the novel is apparent as the readers mark her tribulations from 1 bird to the next as she forges an unheard-of path in her upper-class world but eventually finds that she is unable to survive in this new atmosphere of feminist individualism. The novel is introduced with the image of a colorful parrot squawking words of rage. Two translations of its dialogue are “Go away! Go away! For goodness sake!” and “Get out! Get out! Goddammit!” Either phrase conveys an unpleasant atmosphere, as a parrot traditionally repeats overhear words spoken by humans. To set a tone for the story, the parrot, even though gorgeous and properly taken care of, isn’t cost-free and is unhappy. Its position resembles that of all ladies in the male-dominated globe at the turn of the twentieth century. A lot more especially, nonetheless, the bird represents Edna and the lack of true interest that she receives from her husband Leonce (Bookwolf 1). She is discontented in her marriage, although no outward activity can presuppose this, as her husband offers her with ample cash and sends her numerous gifts. Even though he is very devoted, he supplies no passion in the marriage as he expects her to assume the common role as a wife of a wealthy New Orleans businessman. Edna’s spirit is as well wild and totally free to succumb to a life of subservience, and she will quickly find out that she would rather forsake the a lot of social positive aspects that she enjoys for a life of liberty. Accompanying the parrot in a separate cage is a homely mockingbird whose song is much more gorgeous but whose look is dull and plain in comparison with the parrot. This mockingbird represents Edna’s buddy and advisor, Mademoiselle Reisz, a dowdy old spinster whose awkward social abilities and gruff mannerisms leave her practically friendless. Her extraordinary music, like the mockingbird, impresses all, nevertheless, and Edna is mysteriously drawn to her piano-playing as they kind an understood kinship. Even though Edna is flocked by pals, Mlle. Reisz is the only 1 to recognize Edna’s want to break cost-free ­ the parrot “could speak a small Spanish, and also 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” (Chopin 468). The parrot, like Edna, is nicely-achieved, even though its personal language could only be interpreted by the mockingbird that is recognized solely for its musical talent. Leonce’s reaction to the birds’ songs drives him inside, as he is certainly upset and disgusted by their commotion. The contemporary man of this time would likely be appalled by a woman who considered herself equal to him, voicing her own opinions and neglecting the instant desires of a man. Radical views such as these were not only thought to be unchristian, but have been so socially unacceptable as to endanger the family’s enterprise. His leaving the porch also represents a man’s potential to discard females whenever they ceased to be entertaining, implying that females served the sole purpose of getting noticed and not heard (Fleischman 1). A handful of weeks later, Edna and Mlle. Reisz have come with each other at a social gathering on the beach. The atmosphere is complete of common happiness: youngsters playing, folks enjoying delectable treats, and adults dancing. Though Edna appears to be enjoying herself, she is in the presence of all that she inwardly despises: the traditional society from which she longs to break free of charge. The parrot is again present and squawks the very same disapproval that was expressed in the first lines of the novel. For the duration of a recital by the Farival twins, two girls who represent perfect children as they are dressed in blue and white to represent holiness, the parrot “was the only becoming present who possessed sufficient candor to admit that he was not listening to these gracious performances for the initial time that summer season.” (Chopin 485) Its “venom of nature” was released as it interrupted the supposedly lovely act of the twins. Although she has however to admit it, Edna despises their duet as nicely, as it stands for every little thing in her life that rejects her character. These sentiments are later echoed by Mlle. Reisz who, when asked about her summer season replies that it was “rather pleasant, if it hadn’t been for the mosquitoes and the Farival twins” (Chopin 506). Later that evening, Mlle. Reisz plays for the audience, and during her overall performance, Edna finds herself in a daze as she is transported to one more location on the wings of Mlle. Reisz’s notes. One certain piece, entitled ?Solitude,’ conjured one more image of a bird in which we can assume Edna’s position represents. “It was a short, plaintive, minor strain. When she heard it there came ahead of her imagination the figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the seashore. He was naked. His attitude was 1 of hopeless resignation as he looked toward a distant bird winging its flight away from him” (Chopin 487). She is one of very few females of her time that believes in her personal rights, therefore the title of the piece and the solo flight of the bird. Nevertheless, she has ultimately realized that she can not survive her present life-style as devoted wife and mother. Like the bird, she have to fly away from the strains of society and her loved ones, represented by the man standing on the shore who is hunting desperately towards her flight. The bird is powerful and not hunting back: Edna has taken her very first step to freedom. It is on this evening that she 1st admits to herself her passions for her friend Robert ­ and the very first time that she denies the demands of her husband. Upon her return to New Orleans, Edna is once once more entrenched by the strains of society and motherhood, and she progressively denies them all. Firstly, she is unavailable to acquire callers simply because she is out, evoking much rebuke from her husband. The final straw is pulled when she moves from her elaborate mansion to a much more modest dwelling. She has not forgotten her understanding companion, Mlle. Reisz, who supports her lover for Robert, and she often makes trips to see the elderly lady. It is during one particular of these visits that Mlle. Reisz feels Edna’s shoulder blades to ?see if her wings have been strong’, saying “The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice need to have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth” (Chopin 533) Mlle. Reisz seems to be the only a single who actually knows Edna, realizing that she will attempt flight by leaving the conforms of society. Though Mlle. Reisz warns her of failure, she continues to give suggestions, encouragement, and an perfect model as one who can survive with no becoming a effective wife and devoted mother. (Smollett two) As she moves to her smaller, much more comfortable property around the corner, Edna appropriately names it the ?pigeon house.’ Here, she is free of charge to act in a manner improper to a woman of her social standing as she has denied the wishes of her husband and keeps business with a younger suitor. Her new abode reflects her desire to reject convention and settle in to a way of life all her own. During her time spent dedicated to her new property, a romance is kindling with an acquaintance, Alcee Arobin. Based solely on lust rather than love, their time spent collectively is yet an additional rejection of the social best. Upon close inspection of his name, Arobin is pronounced gradually as a- robin, a bird known for its free of charge flight and capability to reside in close proximity to humans. “Arobin matches this description, for he, as his name implies, flies freely by means of society and as his reputation suggests becomes close with many girls? Clearly he disregards the restrictions and “rules” that society has set up. Edna admires his ability to reside carelessly, as Arobin certainly enjoys himself and succeeds socially. Their relationship is one particular of mutual pleasure, thrown in the face of the upper class. He sees her company as the conquest of a married lady while she longs pursuits him in her quest for adventure, a kindred spirit, and free of charge wings. When her correct really like, Robert, presents himself and confesses his mutual affections for her, she realizes that she is unable to survive with out him. In the real globe, nonetheless, she could never ever reside freely with Robert, and she resorts to tragedy to finish her sorrows. She takes to the sea, exactly where her desperation very first became alive that summer time, and commits suicide by drowning. As she wades in, she catches sight of a bird with a broken wing, unable to fly and falling down to the ocean. Its descent represents Edna’s inability to survive the social mores with her wish to live an independent life. The scene mirrors that which was invoked when Mlle. Reisz played the piano. This time, nevertheless, the bird has failed, and its flight, even though begun so magnificently, is doomed. Edna, standing naked on the shore just as the man was, can now admit to this and realizes her defeat. Her miserable finish can also be noticed as freedom, as an awakening. She has finally broken from her loved ones and her upper-class New Orleans way of life, and can now fly freely (Dyer 131). An additional bird that tends to make an appearance twice throughout the novel is an owl that marks two stages of Edna’s progress in her awakening. In the third chapter, the reader sees the initial mental breaking of Edna as she mourns her circumstance, crying to herself after her husband has reprimanded her for being a neglectful mother. “There was no sound abroad except the hooting of an old owl in the top of a water-oak? It broke like a mournful lullaby upon the night.” (Chopin 471) Representing wisdom, the owl seems to lament her sorrowful scenario as Edna has yet to realize the actions needed for happiness. When she has at some point offered into her desires, admitting feelings for Robert and swimming for the very first time, the reader notices the alterations in Edna’s mannerisms. She is carefree as she drops all pretension and ultimately submits to her own desires. Edna has come into her own, and she no longer wants sympathy as signified in Chapter 39 when “The old owl no longer hooted” (Chopin 492). Her life seemed to be perfectly in order, but a closer look only revealed the worst. Edna Pontellier could by no means be satisfied with convention, with following the guidelines, and with undertaking what was socially proper. But in the end, her wings could not support her flight of freedom. Whether her will was not powerful enough or a bird of her spirit could never ever survive on Earth is up to the reader’s interpretation. But her happiness depended on her awakening. In order to have flown, she had to be cost-free. Works Cited Chopin, Kate. “The Awakening.” Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Bayn et al. 5th Ed. Vol. 2 New York: 457-558. Dyer, Joyce. “Symbolism and Imagery in the Awakening.” Approaches to Teaching Chopin’s The Awakening. Ed. Bernard Koloski. 1988. 126-131. Fleischman, Tom. “Essay on the Awakening.” Nov. 2000. Grand Valley State University. <http://www.gvsu.edu/honor/fleischman.html> Smollett, Sara. “Birds as a Symbol in Chopin’s The Awakening.” On-line Posting. 25 April, 1997. <http://www.simons-rock.edu/~sara/index.php3?subject=classes/awakening> Wyatt, Neal. “Symbols in the Awakening” Kate Chopin Study Text. 1995. Virginia Commonwealth University. <http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/eng384/symbols.htm>

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