The Awakening Essay Research Paper The AwakeningA

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The Awakening Essay, Research Paper The Awakening A DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF HOW KATE CHOPIN USES SYMBOLS TO SIGNAL THE READER OF EDNA’S COMING SUICIDE IN THE AWAKENING WORKS CITED Chopin, Kate, “Works Of Kate Chopin,: The Plot And Themes Of “The Awakening,” pub. 1963, Bureau Development Inc., Parsippany, NJ., pp. 8, pp. 11 Chopin, Kate, “The Awakening,” pub. 1992 World Class Library, Novato, California, Preface. Thorton, Lawrence, “Edna As Icarus: A Mythic Issue,” Approaches To Teaching Chopin’s “The Awakening” (ed.) Bernard Koloski, New York: MLA 1988, pp. 138 Peters, James N., Kay, Pat R., Evans, Steven B., Rogers, Z., Thomas, “A Compendium Of Themes And Works of American Literary Authors,” pub. 1993, World Class Library, Novato, Cal. pp. 39

When Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” was published at the end of the 19th Century, many reviewers took issue with what they perceived to be the author’s defiance of Victorian proprieties, but it is this very defiance with which has been responsible for the revival in the interest of the novel today. This factor is borne out by Chopin’s own words throughout her Preface — where she indicates that women were not recipients of equal treatment. (Chopin, Preface ) Edna takes her own life at the book’s end, not because of remorse over having committed adultery but because she can no longer struggle against the social conventions which deny her fulfillment as a person and as a woman. Like Kate Chopin herself, Edna is an artist and a woman of sensitivity who believes that her

identity as a woman involves more than being a wife and mother. It is this very type of independent thinking which was viewed as heretical in a society which sought to deny women any meaningful participation. The fact that Edna is an artist is significant, insofar as it allows her to have a sensibility as developed as the author’s. Furthermore, Edna is able to find in Mlle. Reisz, who has established herself as a musician, a role model who inspires her in her efforts at independence. Mlle. Reisz, in confiding to Edna that “You are the only one worth playing for,” gives evidence of the common bond which the two of them feel as women whose sensibilities are significantly different from those of the common herd. The French heritage which Edna absorbed through her Creole

upbringing allowed her, like Kate Chopin herself, to have knowledge or a way of life that represented a challenge to dominant Victorian conventions. In Creole society, women are dominated by men, but at least the freer attitude toward sexuality allows a woman opportunities for romance which are lacking in Anglo-Saxon culture. But sexual freedom is of little interest to Edna unless it can be used as a means of asserting her overall freedom as a human being. Learning to swim is thus important to her, because it allows her to have more control over the circumstances of her own life through the overcoming of the dread of water and the fear of death which it symbolizes. Again, the process through which Edna attains liberation and, in the author’s words, begins to “do as she likes

and to feel as she likes,” is a gradual one. From statements such as “women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels,” it should be obvious why “The Awakening” was viewed by some critics of the day as offensive to prevailing conventions and mores. When Edna finally resolved to end her life it is not because she has been rejected by Robert but because she can no longer lead the type authentic life which to her is the only life worth living, and this is the result of the denial of equal rights to women by the society of that day. Chopin has clearly taken care to anticipate criticisms that her suicide would leave the children motherless by having her