Use of Aviary Symbolism in The Awakening Essay

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Use of Aviary Symbolism in The Awakening

Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening is full of symbolism. Symbols add meaning and depth to the text. Chopin underscores the expression "free as a bird" through the consistent use of aviary symbolism in The Awakening. Throughout the story she cleverly weaves images and descriptions of birds to express the psychological state of mind of her main character, Edna Pontellier.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this symbolism is in the first spoken sentences of the novel, which, strangely enough, are not uttered by a human, but rather screeched by a parrot. "Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That's all right!" (Chopin 1) are the words hollered by this maddened, caged bird. When
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ingenuous frankness he spoke of what a wicked, undisciplined boy he had been. ." (Chopin 76) and to Edna he, "talked in a way that astonished her at first and brought crimson to her face." (Chopin 78) Later on, he has no qualms or remorse when he has an affair with Edna, a married woman. Alcee Arobin is a vicious playboy who soars through society with no morals or constrictions, simply doing what he wants when he wants. Edna greatly admires these qualities and longs to have them so that she too will be able to glide through life without barriers before her or chains holding her back.

"The bird that would soar above the level of plain tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth." (Chopin 83) This is the advice, given to Edna by the mysterious Mademoiselle Reisz, that also fails into the pattern of avian imagery to represent a deeper meaning for the novel's heroine. Though Edna does not comprehend the message behind Mademoiselle Reisz's warning, the reader realizes that if Edna is determined to break through the stereotype of the submissive, passive housewife, and to"fly free" in society, she must have strength in order to succeed. These lines are echoed later at the tragic conclusion. Prior to Edna's suicide, she notices that, "a bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, fluttering,circling disabled down, down to the water." (Chopin 115) The unfortunate

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