"The Awakening" by Kate Chopin.

Essay by maria17High School, 12th gradeA+, April 2003

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Symbolism in The Awakening

In The Awakening Kate Chopin makes excellent use of symbolism. Everything she puts into the novel is there for a reason and has a distinct purpose in the development of the story. The various houses that Edna resides, her painting, the sea, and the birds, all have much significance in the Awakening.

The houses in which Edna stay throughout the novel represent her progress as she undergoes her awakening. In the cottage on Grande Isle and the big house in New Orleans Edna is expected to be the perfect "mother woman" and the perfect hostess. While in these houses she stays within the limits of these traditional roles. When Edna stays at Madame Antoine's house a shift begins. It is here that Edna experiences a newfound world of freedom. On the new island Edna can create her own new world and forget about the other people around her.

Unfortunately for Edna the Cheniere is not a home but a temporary shelter. The pigeon house is symbolically the most important of the houses. Once Edna moves into the pigeon house, she is free to behave as she like without considering how others will view her actions.

Another very important symbol in The Awakening is painting. Edna is fascinated by painting and art in general. She uses painting as an outlet to express her feelings which she could not otherwise express due to the social constraints of society. At first Edna considers herself an amateur and throws many of her sketches away. Later on she gains confidence after being complemented by Adele and encouraged by Mademoiselle Reisz. Because Edna's painting represents herself, the change in confidence symbolizes Edna's change in herself. She gradually becomes more bold and rebellious as the story progresses.

The sea also holds symbolic...