Symbolism in The Awakening Story by Kate Chopin
The Victorian era is known not only for poetic masterpieces but also for gender novels. In particular, Kate Chopin's The Awakening mixes women's emotions, fears, and desires that need freedom. The main character is Edna, a woman tired of being a housewife in the Creole community. Chopin vividly described the routines of Victorian women and the neglect men treated them. In particular, Edna feels pressure from society, relatives, and her husband, who does not understand her wants and needs.
Moreover, Chopin uses symbolism as an indicator of gender bias and discrimination. In this novel, women are compared to birds. Many of the wives of the Victorian era were beautiful caged birds. They could only sing and delight their masters. It is the restriction of freedom and dependence on husbands that is a key aspect of symbolism. Chopin deliberately uses the analogy of broken bird wings to show how fragile the protagonist's psychological state is.
According to the plot, Edna feels lonely and oppressed because her husband restricts her freedom. But meeting a stranger makes her feel love and passion again. The writer uses the ocean as a symbolic way to show the transformation of the protagonist. When Edna stepped into the water, she felt purified and gained confidence. Now she is no longer a weak-willed doll but a person who has the right to control her destiny.
Moreover, she feels a desire to achieve something more. Chopin deliberately used symbolism to reveal the character of the protagonist. Edna decided to swim a long distance, saying, "I want to swim further than any other woman before me." These words show the girl's moral transformation. Now she is not a bird in a cage but a person who has rights, desires, and goals.
Also, the ocean is a symbol of irreversible changes. Through the protagonist, Kate Chopin showed the need for change in Victorian society. Her novel is not a cry for help but a statement that times of equality will come. The writer used the sea as a reflector of emotions and a symbolic substance to awaken a woman's self-awareness. Chopin also uses certain characters as plot triggers and a symbolic reminder that all people should be equal. For example, when Edna meets a talented pianist, she realizes how much music can help her abstract from reality. So the piano became her passion.
According to the plot, Edna's husband could not understand her emotional state and decided to leave for a while to allow her to recover. The symbolism of the husband's actions is interpreted as a misunderstanding of the partner's needs and a desire to abstract from problems. It is the lack of understanding of the husband that becomes the plot trigger. Edna decides that the only way to be truly free is through the ocean. Her potential partner decides to run away from responsibility and public censure, so Edna goes to the sea. Suicide is a symbol of rejection of social norms and discrimination against women.
It is worth noting that the writer used a good analogy with birds when describing the protagonist's emotional state. Edna says, "I flew high like a bird, but my wings are broken." With this statement, she describes the helplessness of Creole women and objectification. For Victorian men, wives were only servants and foolish creatures with nothing but beauty. It was the desire for freedom that pushed the main character to commit suicide. It is worth noting that the writer does not call society to extinction but emphasizes the seriousness of gender inequality precisely because of the strong triggers.
One of the most powerful manifestations of symbolism is the visit of the main character to the dovecote. Edna realized that society does not need free people who can make informed decisions. Pigeons are an unattainable ideal that society needs so much. Edna became disillusioned with life precisely because women did not defend their rights and were even afraid of dissent. According to Creole traditions, having children, household chores, and worshiping a husband are dreams of a real woman.
Chopin wanted to show the hopelessness and despair of the main character. Lack of moral support and loneliness became a springboard for decisive action. One of the surprising aspects of the novel is that symbolism is not a transponder of tragic ideas and despair. In a way, the protagonist's actions can be seen as the birth of a new personality. Edna realized that she had the right to decide her destiny independently. The desire to drown is nothing more than a way to say no to traditional values and gender discrimination. The protagonist's death is the path to liberation from the invisible cage and the shackles of marriage.
Kate Chopin didn't use tricky metaphors or complex plot twists. Instead, she showed that a woman is entitled to dreams and better destiny. Death is just an opportunity to leave a world full of injustice. In addition, the writer skillfully used symbolism to show women a new path. As a result, this novel became part of feminist changes in society and a trigger that led to equality. Drama and symbolism are two aspects that made Edna's story so powerful and emotional. If the writer did not emphasize inequality and analogies with birdcages, readers might misunderstand the original meaning of the novel. That is why Chopin resorted to the drama and death of the main character.
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