Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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The Awakening is a novella by Kate Chopin about the protagonist’s transformation from a constricted, traditional wife and mother into a free, self-regulating woman. For many years, women have struggled to be seen as equals to the men of the world. Chopin explores how men and society of the 1800s “caged” its women. Throughout the story, Chopin uses imagery of birds and flight to express the yearning for freedom of the entrapped women of the Victorian era. Chopin begins the novella by describing two birds, a green and yellow parrot and a mockingbird. She says, “A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over: ‘Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That’s all right!’ He could speak a little Spanish,…show more content…
She plays inspiring music for Edna, gives her advice, and lets her read letters from Robert. Mademoiselle Reisz can relate to Edna’s desire to be free because she went through the same struggle. She recognizes Edna’s attempt to fly away from society's conventions and from her responsibilities as a mother and a wife. Because of her experience, Mademoiselle tries to caution Edna. She puts her arms around Edna and feels her shoulder blades to see if her wings are strong, and she says, "The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth" (88). She is warning Edna that in order for her to escape, she has to be strong, and she does not believe that Edna is strong enough. However, Mademoiselle Reisz's advice goes completely unheeded; Edna says, "I am not thinking of any extraordinary flight. I only half comprehend her" (88). In the last scene of the novel, Edna goes back to the beach where she was first “awakened.” She has come to the harsh realization that there is no hope and that there is no escape for her life. While Edna is at the beach, she sees as injured bird. Chopin says, "A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water" (120). The bird represents Edna in her final stage of awakening. She realizes that is impossible for her to escape and live the life that she wants to live. She learns that her ideas of being a free and independent woman are not realistic. Edna sees death as her only option for escaping 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
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