Theme Of Birds In The Awakening

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In the 19th Century, it was uncommon for women to alter their lives in opposition to society’s strictly-prescribed social structures. This issue arises in The Awakening by Kate Chopin, where Edna Pontellier strives to set herself free from Creole society’s confining gender roles. She is expected to devote her existence to her husband and children – a life of little satisfaction. As Edna encounters these constructs, Chopin employs birds to symbolically explore the recurring ideas of freedom and captivity. Birds, through their behaviors and actions, ultimately deepen our understanding of Edna’s fate as a woman in her society, with their eventual downfall symbolizing her inability to obtain freedom by overcoming ironclad social structures.
Throughout
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Despite her marriage, Edna confides in Mademoiselle Reisz by professing her love for Robert Lebrun. When telling Alcee Arobin about Mlle Reisz, Edna mentions: “… she ...felt my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were strong, she said. ‘The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings’” (Chopin 129). After revealing her forbidden love, Edna embraces this metaphor of being a bird – of her shoulders being wings, and her being able to fly. Chopin depicts Edna as the bird, striving for freedom. Because Edna is boldly defying her traditional Creole relationship by loving Robert, the bird that would “soar” and transcend the “level plain of tradition and prejudice” is therefore symbolic of Edna striving to be free and love whomever she …show more content…
She walks to the beach, and “Despondency had come upon her...There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert…” (Chopin 163). Edna longs for Robert, but since he is also a man of Creole society, she cannot be in a relationship with him. Her emotional struggle is intense, and it resembles that of a bird nearby. As Edna recalls, “A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water” (Chopin 163). Chopin focuses on the bird’s disability, using vibrant imagery of the bird “beating” the air and “circling disabled,” flailing its wings. The bird plunges all the way “down to the water,” from its disability. Parallel to that, Edna also drowns and dies in the water from an impairment: the emotional turbulence of not being with Robert — of not being a free woman. Thus, this bird is symbolic of Edna dying, and while Edna’s freedom is previously embodied in a bird that will “soar,” this bird’s death proves Edna is unable to achieve her freedom, thus never escaping the captivity of a strict Creole relationship. The exploration of Edna’s captivity through the symbolism of birds, in sum, demonstrates Edna’s fated inability to escape

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