14 October 2009
The symbols in The Awakening mean a great deal to the character development of Edna Pontellier. They are so many symbols in this book, which it can make it hard to figure out what means what? There are some symbols that you can identify with more than others.
There are some more important than others and those are the ones we should focus on.
She feels trapped by society, like a caged bird. A caged bird always wants to get outside of the conventions of the cage. Edna felt trapped by what everyone saw fit for her to act like.
She was very rebellious during the book. Rebelling against society's cage, She wanted to be free but she was not able to free herself from her former life entirely. She rebels and
Looks forward to the day she can be free. She hopes for freedom and wants to fly. Others
Women during the time period used their wings but not to fly, only to protect. Edna is not
Very independence but she wants to be. She wants to get out of cage but only the very
Strong willed could be lifted. Edna wants to prove her love for Robert but she cannot. Edna is not strong willed. “A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling,
fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water.” Edna spirit was broken because
She could not escape the conventions of society. She had one way out and it was suicide.
She failed because her wings were too weak.
Edna wants to be an artist. Art is sign of freedom because to be a true artist, you have to be able to be an individual. Edna is not one, thus she cannot be a true artist. Anyone can copy an image and produce a face but unless you can out something of your self into the portrait, then it is a meaningless copy. She was going to use her art and try to create a living for herself away from her husband’s income. Edna is an individual but she unable to defend her individuality against the society. She uses art a way to try and escape but she cannot escape the inescapable.
Edna's life truly begins in the water. Water is mention at almost every single twist and turn of the book. The sea is self-cleansing to Edna. For her, she is being reborn for the depths of the sea. She fell in love with the person who helped her start her awakening, Robert. The sea represents endless potential. Many people had tried to teach her how to swim, men, women and children. It is a sign of empowerment when she finally learns how. It creates such strong feelings for her and she loved the water. It was a sign of
Freedom that she can get away from it all. How she can be independent and free. She is self aware of how small she was in the grand scheme of things in the world. How quickly she can be lost in the sea and it brings her away. She experienced a moment of panic thinking she had swum out too far and would die there. She cannot be selfish here in the sea where it does not care if she is the first lady or a pauper. In the sea, Edna ended her life. She ends it there. The infinite potential becomes a blank and enveloping void that carries both a promise and a threat. In its deep dark vastness the sea represents the strong, honor, and lonely horror of independence.
In The Awakening, there are so many symbols to discuss and each one brings something to the awakening of Edna Pontellier. She is a complex character who just wants to be free. Freedom is reoccurring theme in The Awakening and many symbols either contrast or flow with this theme. Symbols are not spelled out clearly but they are meant for us to think. Think about what everything means to Edna and try to put yourself in her shoes.