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Symbolism In The Awakening Essay

Birds: Birds are symbolic of the Victorian era women present in the story, just as the cages they are placed in mirror the societal restraints placed upon these women by the creole society. As the birds scream “Go away! Go away! For God’s sake” it is understood that this restriction of sorts is not always accepted, rather a select few instead reject them, enter our main character Edna.

Sleep: Sleep is considered an escape, the idea of leaving oneself behind and entering a world of unrestrained possibilities is the only offered comfort to Edna when she is badgered by her husband upon his return from billiards. She refuses to offer anymore than the slightest participation in the discussion and hopes only to be left to herself and her dreams.

Water: Edna’s fear of water is the basis for her awakening, or rather her overcoming of this fear. Her disregard of this fear constitutes her first and most important step in newfound independence and rebirth. She fears the water will force her into a bitter isolation, a catalyst for death. Having defeated this fear she finds comfort in solitude.

Colors: Though the repeated symbolism of colors is abundant, one instance in which they are established to have a deeper value is during the party in which a piano pair of twins makes themselves present. They are expected to become the embodiment of chastity, nuns, and are dressed in formal white and blue clothing. The colors white and blue are representative of the the Virgin Mary as well as purity.

Setting: The Grand Isle is symbolic of something like a ball and chain for Edna, she feels the society amongst the island as well as those that inhabit it hinder her, they prevent her from achieving an unknown freedom that she desires. It’s obvious that she lacks the understanding when she returns with Robert and is confused as to why he takes his leave. She doesn’t realize that she can’t express her desire for him openly on the isle because it is not deemed acceptable, a concept foreign to the naive and restrained Edna but well understood by the experienced Robert.

Societal context: In creole society a man never has to fear an unfaithful wife, her chastity is engraved within the marriage, and this demanded devotion leads to the husband viewing his wife as property. Within the Isles, each married women has come to terms with this through generations of viewing it as a social norm but this practice is foreign to the Presbyterian and American Edna, leading to the main issue of the story and her rebellious acts in an attempt for self realization.

Foil: The most obvious foil amongst the main characters of The Awakening is that of Adele and Edna. Edna is a seemingly emotionally detached and un-motherlike figure whom lacks a compassion for her husband that is obvious amongst other creole wives. One of these wives being Adele, the ideal wife in fact, she is referred to repeatedly as the ideal “mother-woman” but in Edna’s eyes she is a contrasting woman whom lacks the ability to see herself as an individual.

Music and art: Adele’s piano piece caused a flickering of images within Edna’s mind, images of solitude, a naked man watching a bird fly away freely, this bird representing a woman breaking away. Reisz’s piece was different, it caused in agitation within Edna that forced a stirring of emotion bringing her to tears, Reisz commented that Edna was the only one worth playing for, this is because only Edna understood the magnitude of self expression present within the notes. After having heard Reisz music Edna began to paint with a newfound passion and burning desire for expression.

Foreshadowing: The first instance of foreshadowing is the green and yellow parrot, the symbolic animal of Edna, it’s repeated screeches and agitation with being caged are a foreshadowing to Edna soon distaste with being treated as property and her desire for freedom, but it also foreshadows a tragic ending.

Changes in Edna’s character: This one would take too long to describe in its entirety with justice. Edna undergoes a serious of changes in mentality, mostly with regard to her view of herself as a function of society, her current state being one she disagrees with. She goes through several periods of change, most of which have their own individual climax, ranging from her challenge of the sea to her day spent with Robert away from the isles.

Physical movement: (pretending this is a reference to either Edna spending her day with Robert off the isles or the significance of her husband’s repeated business trips, that of which take place elsewhere.) Once again recalling upon Edna’s feelings of confinement and restraint when on the island, she views physical journeys to be an escape, similar to that of sleep (although this would be nonphysical). If provided with an opportunity, in a few instances she is, she takes it upon herself to leave and allow for a reinvigorating period pf freedom.

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