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The Awakening By Kate Chopin Essays

Birds as a Symbol in Different Settings
The Awakening, written by Kate Chopin, focuses around Edna’s ambition to seek individuality. Taking place in 1890s, Edna tries to detach herself from the oppressive social norms and seek self-discovery. In the novel, The Awakening, Chopin uses the motif of birds in the settings of the ocean and the Pigeon House to illustrate Edna’s awakening with the intent to provide social commentary about women’s repressed roles in society.
Chopin uses the setting of the ocean to illustrate Edna’s self-discovery and freedom. The motif of birds represents Edna during the stages of her awakenings. Towards the beginning of the novel, Edna reflects on the differences between herself and the other women of society. The ‘mother-woman’ represents the ideal woman figure during this time period. The ideal woman consists of one who puts aside her own wants for her families, using her ‘protecting wing’ to help secure her family. Edna awakens to the acknowledgment that she will never be pleased with her place in society. Although she shows love and compassion for her children, she is not willing to give up her own identity. Chopin uses this passage and the opinions of Edna to create social commentary directed to the women of this society. As Edna awakens to see the wrong with women’s place in society, she witnesses the women around her being comfortable in their controlled environment. This new perception allows Edna to continue pushing against society’s rules, which inevitably leads Edna to further awaken. Furthermore, Chopin personifies Edna as a bird to convey Edna’s wish to be free from her marriage. While listening to Mademoiselle Reisz playing the piano prior to learning how to swim, Edna has a daydream of a man standing on a beach. The image of the bird flying away from the man awakens desire within Edna. Representing boundless freedom, the ocean awakens Edna’s ambition to branch away from the restriction of her marriage. The man symbolizes the men in society and Edna’s want to not be confined to the restraint of a man. The personification of the bird represents Edna, as the bird directly flies away from any man, and thus any restriction or confinement. Edna’s realization to be free awakens her to become an individual and to no longer be held by the contract of marriage. Chopin uses this image to produce social commentary regarding men’s oppression of women in society. In contrast, Chopin uses the image of a falling bird to represent Edna’s defeat in escaping from the confines of society.As Edna walks into the Gulf, she realizes that the only way to escape from society’s ideals is to end her life. Whilst walking into the water, Edna sees in the distance. In the last scene of the novel, Chopin uses the symbolism of the broken wing of a bird to elude over Edna’s failures to escape from society. The image of the bird with the broken wing embodies Edna’s disillusionment as she learns that her ideals for freedom and individuality are not reality. As the bird falls, it spirals down in a circle, alluding to the fact that one of its wings has not been broken and therefore, it is still fighting to remain above the water. This is connected to Edna in that her last act of rebellion is to take absolute control and to end her life. When in the water, Edna is reminded of the infinite probability around her and of her own position within society. Irony is developed in the setting through juxtaposition of the opposing ideas that although the ocean is the place where Edna meets her death, it was the first place where she began her awakening. Chopin develops social commentary to emphasis how societal perception overpowers individual desire.
Chopin uses the setting of the Pigeon House and the motif of birds to depict Edna’s awakening. After Mr. Pontellier leaves to go on a business trip, Edna has the availability to move out and seek her own abode. Edna’s separation from marital restriction enables her to seek her own individuality. The shift in Edna’s tones is evident through the diction of ‘strength and expansion’, which emits a positive connotation. Edna’s awakening of passion is formed to such an extent that she now sees a bigger purpose for herself. The pigeon-house expands upon the motif of birds in that Edna’s freedom is enabled through the exemption of the pigeon-house. The
characteristics of pigeons and Edna are closely linked, both expressing rebellious attributes. Chopin creates social commentary through Edna’s rebellious act of moving away from her family. Chopin focuses on the fixed minds of the people surrounding Edna and the prejudiced beliefs of society as Edna searches for herself. Further on, the pigeon-house awakens Edna’s acknowledgement of society’s biased beliefs. Soon after she moves into the pigeon-house, Edna seeks sexual satisfaction with Alcee Arobin. When speaking about Mademoiselle Reisz, Edna states. The purpose of this passage is to illustrate Edna awareness of Alcee’s conformity with society. Edna’s mocking tone is evident in the diction of ‘a sad spectacle’, which reverses to Alcee’s acceptance of the regulation of society. Since Edna is searching for her independence, she pities Alcee and his blatant acceptance of the social norms. As Edna’s confidante, Mlle.Reisz had expressed to Edna the importance of maintaining the strength and bravery to ‘soar above the level of tradition’. This insistence pushes Edna to prevent falling among those who are not strong enough such as Alcee. Chopin develops social commentary through Alcee’s misunderstanding of Edna’s desires. Chopin uses the thoughts of Alcee to illuminate over society’s view of women. Alcee plays an essential role in that his confusion represents societies. Furthermore, although the pigeon-house allows Edna to seek independence, it also holds a false sense of reality. As Alcee and Edna leave the pigeon-house for a walk, Edna gives a detailed description of the house. The descriptive image of the pigeon-house is intended to represent a false sense of security. The ‘locked gate’ is a metaphor for a larger cage,which is only a from her original home. While Edna views her new home as a sign of her independence, the pigeon house represents her inability to remove herself from her former life, Choplin develops social commentary on the deceiving aspects of Edna’s freedom within the pigeon-house. Leaving her former home behind, Edna searched for a means to be free from the restrictions of her marriage, to seek her sexual desire and to pursue her individuality.
In conclusion, in the novel, The Awakening, Chopin uses the motif of birds in the settings of the ocean and the pigeon-house to illustrates Edna’s awakening with the intent to provide social commentary about women’s repressed roles in society. In The Awakening, although Edna seeks individuality and freedom, she is controlled by the conforms of society. Chopin uses the character of Edna to create social commentary on woman prejudices during the 1890s. Chopin ends the novel in the same setting where it began. Chopin does so to provide social commentary to emphasis how societal perception overpowers one’s desire.

Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements / paper topics on The Awakening by Kate Chopin that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper. Before you begin, however, please get some useful tips and hints abouthow to use PaperStarter.comin the brief User's Guide…you'll be glad you did.

Still working out the details? Click Here for a Free Detailed Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of “The Awakening”

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Layered Significance of the Title

The title of Kate Chopin’s novella is significant because it refers to the many ways in which Edna begins to awaken to the world around her. She is not only waking up her understanding of herself as an individual and as a woman who does not find herself happy in the domestic world of her peers, she is also awakening to herself as a sexual being. Throughout the novel, there are many examples of different kinds of awakenings; from her awakening to herself as an artist when she tries to paint, her waking up to the realization that she can appreciate music, and to the fact that her life up until this point has been unfulfilling. For this essay (it will likely be an expository essay rather than too much of an argumentative one) find three or four examples of different kinds of awakenings in the book and tie them together in a solid conclusion about the overall meaning of awakening. For more assistance with this topic, consult the freely accessible and the stages she goes through.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Symbolism in The Awakening

Throughout The Awakening by Kate Chopin, much of the deeper meaning in the story is revealed through a number of important symbols. These symbolic elements and images make the connection between Edna’s world and her eventual awakening more potent and meaningful for the reader. Three of the most prominent symbols used are birds, houses, and the ocean and each means something different in the context of the story. Birds represent freedom and the ability to fly but are also symbols for something that is strong yet delicate. Houses are where one resides and thus are reflections on the soul of the inhabitant. The fact that Edna has multiple homes is important because they reflect her changing state of mind. The ocean symbolizes freedom and the metaphorical notion death as well but it also represents something that is larger than life and almost impossible to comprehend. For this essay use one symbol for each paragraph and tie them all together with a conclusion discussing the overall importance of symbols and how they function in the book.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3 : The Awakening as a Feminist Novella

Upon its initial serial publication, this novella caused quite a stir because it presented a female protagonist who was so blatantly refusing the society she lived in and furthermore, because she was so sexually aware. This combination in Edna’s character made her a literary icon for feminist ideals. Because of the way Edna chooses individuality over conformity, sexuality over repression, and art over entertaining she is acting as a feminist—even at a time when this was not a common concept. For this essay choose three of four aspects to her character or events in the story (such as her getting her own place or taking a lover for instance) and examine them closely to look for ways in which Edna promotes feminist ideals

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Context of the Victorian Era

In the Victorian society in which this novel takes place, there are many strict behavioral and other conventions that must be adhered to, particularly for women. Consider the idea of the “mother women" such as Adele Ratignolle versus more independent women such as Mademoiselle Reisz and look at the way each woman fits into (or doesn’t) the greater society around her. In this paradigm Edna is caught between her desires for independence and freedom and the constraining notions of Victorian society. For this essay, think hard about Victorian expectations for women and examine how women are expected to fit into it and what happens if they do not. A good structure for this essay would be to spend one paragraph on individual characters and look at how they defy, adhere to, or reject their society and what consequences result. For more on this topic, click here to read more about the literary history of the time period during which this was written.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5 Contrasting Ideas of Femininity and Masculinity

Gender roles are an important theme in this novella and there are numerous examples of issues arising because of violations of or over-adherence to traditional roles. Edna’s society places a great deal of emphasis on women performing a rigid set of requirements, including being perfect wives, doting mothers, and skillful entertainers. Women in “The Awakening”such as Adele perform their role perfectly and seem completely fulfilled by it while Edna finds it leaving her feeling empty. Men too have a number of expectations and it is important to look at Leonce and other men in the novel and how they either uphold or rebel against the status quo in terms of gendered expectations.

If you are still looking for further insights about “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin, here are several freely accessible articles and essays on various topics, including : Death as a Metaphor in “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin • The Awakening by Kate Chopin : Analysis of the Process of Edna's Awakening • Character Analysis of Edna in “The Awakening” and Discussion About Conflict & Climax • Gender and Social Criticism in The Awakening by Kate Chopin • The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin : Language, Emotion and Marriage • American Literature Since 1865-Roosevelt : Common Themes and Issues


This list of important quotations from the text will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.

The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in a maze of inward contemplation" (14).

(Edna thinking of Kentucky) “of a meadow that seemed as big as the ocean to the very little girl walking through the grass, which was higher than her wait. She threw her arms as if swimming when she walked, beating the tall grass as one strikes out in the water" (17).

“But that night she was like the little tottering, stumbling, clutching child, who all of a sudden realizes its power and walks for the first time alone, boldly and with over confidence. She could have shouted with joy" (23).

“The years that are gone seem like dreams-if one might go on sleeping and dreaming—but to wake up and find—oh! Well! Perhaps it is better to wake up after all. Even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life" (50).

“A certain light was beginning to dawn dimply within her—the light which, showing the way, forbids it" (53).

(Mademoiselle Reisz) “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" (82).

“A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled, down, down to the water" (108).

“She cast the unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and for the first time in her life, she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her" (108).

Still working out the details? Click Here for a Free Detailed Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of “The Awakening”

* All quotes refer to the 1996 Penguin Edition *

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