Major Themes of The Awakening Story
It is impossible to deny that Kate Chopin is a unique writer whose works are filled with symbols and metaphors that explain the meaning of the critical concepts. While some themes and images can be easily distinguished, others may seem to be more complicated. Anyway, it is always interesting to read the novel and analyze its components.
Appealing topics, exciting symbols, and unexpected outcomes are the core specifications of the Kate Chopin novel The Awakening. It is not surprising to hear various reviews from readers, as there are numerous themes in the work that may resonate with people differently. Here are some of the most appealing topics relevant to the writer and will not leave readers indifferent.
Person and Society
Throughout the novel, the reader may feel the criticism of the patriarchal order in the society, which eliminates the freedom of the woman to think, feel and act the way she wants. According to the novel, from the very childhood, girls are taught that the man is the leader in the house and the woman’s desires should coincide with the man's. Girls should subside their instinct, hide emotions and create a perfect outer self.
Edna, one of the characters in the novel, defies society and its order by leaving her home, living her best life, having an affair, and proving her significance.
The Power of Societal Traditions
The vast majority of characters depicted in the novel are unhappily married or have devastating problems ruining their families. Nonetheless, the desire to correspond to societal conventions and certain traditions takes hold of these people and makes them live under the false pretense.
Leonce’s family is set apart, but he lets his wife move out of the house, pretending that they remodel the home. Robert betrays his love for Edna as he cannot contradict the norms of that time having relations with a married woman. All these people choose to be unhappy inside but successful outside.
Romanticism and Realism of Motherhood
Adele Ratignolle is the main character that is associated with a perfect image of a mother. Through her behavior, motherhood is depicted as a selfless act of love and self-sacrifice. Consequently, most readers consider the woman to be a mere angel. However, the reality seems to be a bit different.
While some females are portrayed to be ultimately happy of being mothers, others suffer from this state. If you take a closer look at Edna’s life, you will notice that motherhood is true slavery for her. She often views her children as a burden that takes her freedom and happiness away.
Taking into account these opposing stories, the readers can notice two views of motherhood, reflecting romanticism and realism.
Kate Chopin is widely known for her feminist views, so she could not miss an opportunity to declare them once again. Therefore, feminism is also one of the critical themes of the novel The Awakening. The story of Edna is the analogy of the feminist revolution. The woman experiences the awakening and finds out several ways she has been oppressed. She does not want to subdue her desires to the societal traditions, telling her what kind of wife, mother, and human she is supposed to be.
Edna rebels against her husband and declares her independence by leaving home and starting an affair. She admits that her motherhood is a complete mistake, and she chooses to take care of herself rather than others. She starts earning money by working on her self-serving art. Finally, she can do what she loves and feel happy about it.
Core Symbols in The Awakening
Apart from the impressive themes and intriguing stories, the novel is full of exciting symbols and metaphors that help the readers understand the main idea of the work better. Therefore, reading the novel, it is critical to be thoughtful, paying attention to little details that can be ultimately meaningful.
There are numerous cases of birds in the novel. Their descriptions vary a lot, as well as their meanings. From the very beginning, the author tells about the caged parrot and a caged mockingbird that represent the women of the time. During the Victorian period, females were oppressed and felt like caged birds without any freedom, will, or rights.
At the same time, Mademoiselle Reisz compares rebellious women to strong birds that should have enough courage and desire to soar high above society. Before Edna commits suicide, she sees a poor, miserable bird with a broken wing. It is surely the best way to describe the woman that “descends into the water and drowns.” This bird is the brightest symbol of Edna, who is tired of rebellion and cannot resist the pressure of society.
The sea is another impressive symbol mentioned in the novel a couple of times. In various situations, its meaning may be different, so it is inevitable to be attentive to each little detail that can influence the connotation.
When Edna learns to swim, for instance, the sea is depicted as a symbol of freedom she gains. In other situations, it represents the uncontrollable current, which is associated with society, while her swimming skills help her awake and rebel against the norms and traditions.
Finally, the image of the sea is used to highlight Edna’s weakness and exhaustion. She lets the water take her. Alternatively, some people consider this symbol to be an excellent chance for her to escape from society and relish complete freedom.
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