Kate Chopin wrote a short novel named ” The Awakening” in the 20th century, as being one of the first feminist authors that started writing at that time. Her ability as a writer was to raise life from a blank page. Even a later famous novelist, Willa Cather, was impressed by Chopin’s style in the novel “The Awakening”.
In this essay, I intend to illustrate Kate Chopin’s approach to the symbol of birds throughout the novel. Birds signify, not only the freedom of flight but the perspective the vision and the individuality. The birds represent the soul of humans which have reached the perfection. Birds acquire a greater wisdom and knowledge than that of the humans. Birds have many abilities such as walking on earth, floating in the water and ascending into the air.
The main character is Edna Pontellier, who wishes to spread her wings and seek individuality. It resembles a bird. Through the symbols of birds, we see Edna’s emotions and the choices she took, good or bad, in her journey of self-discovery. Edna at first is as “A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door” (The Awakening, page 5) but in the end, the image transforms into: “a bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water”. (The Awakening, page 120)
In literature, the mockingbird symbolizes innocence, purity, honesty, which I see in Edna’s accomplishing the duty which her mother and wife roles assume. By making a parallel between Edna and the mockingbird, I’d like to point out that the author wanted us to see Edna’s changing, from the honest, innocent woman who is taking care of her family in the first part of the story, to the woman who loses interest in her mother and wife roles in the second part. Not only that her awakening takes a sexual connotation, but also a quest for creativity, which allowed her to try painting.
Mademoiselle Reisz is an exemplary for Edna, as she is the only artist she knows and listens to her pieces of advice. Mademoiselle Reisz encouraged Edna to defy society’s expectations and roles and to act as a bird, even checking her ‘wings’ in a hug: “she put her arms around me and felt my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were strong, she said. ” (The Awakening, page 88) The advice that Edna gets from the pianist includes a reference to a bird ” that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.” (The Awakening, page 88). In her fight for independence, Edna becomes a threat to the values of society.