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Ocean Symbolism In The Awakening

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In the 1800’s, the societal niche of married women was clearly defined: they were meant to devote every aspect of their lives to their husbands and children. Edna Pontellier, the protagonist in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, struggles to adhere to these standards, and eventually rebels against them. The harsh standards placed on Edna and other women in the novel are like the cages around the metaphorical birds Chopin uses to represent them. Edna's unhappiness in her societal role is realized in the ocean, which symbolizes this awakening and her attempt to escape the gender roles of the nineteenth century. The images of birds and the ocean are used to show the harsh standards placed on Edna and other women in the nineteenth century. As illustrated in The Awakening, the ocean is a symbol of rebirth and revival. While at Grand Isle, Edna is one of the only vacationers who can not swim. The water is as unfamiliar to Edna as her neighbors’ culture and way of openly expressing themselves. As Edna becomes more comfortable in the water, she also becomes more in touch with her own emotions. One particular night, Edna is able to swim farther into the ocean than she ever had before - the same night when she realizes her own distaste with her marriage and her role in society. Chopin writes that while Edna was in the water, “a feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul (Chopin 27)”. This…show more content…
Kate Chopin conveys the feelings and internal conflict of Edna Pontellier through using the ocean as a symbol of Edna’s awakening and rebirth, and birds as symbols of how women felt trapped by gender roles during this time. These symbols convey the overbearing and oppressive standards women were held to throughout the nineteenth
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