The Awakening: A Symbolic Analysis

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The bird is often used throughout The Awakening as a symbol of Edna Pontellier and Mademoiselle Reisz, and the struggles that they face during Edna’s awakening. This symbol functions to enhance the women's characters by magnifying the desire for solitude and provide a deeper context on the endeavor that many women faced during the Victorian Era as they were pressure to follow the same rules.
The opening scene of The Awakening is important to understanding the complex symbol of the caged bird. Madame Lebrun, the owner of the cottages on Grand Isle, cares for two birds, a green and yellow parrot and a mockingbird, that hang on the either side of the door to her house. Throughout the story the parrot represents Edna Pontellier and the mockingbird represents Mademoiselle Reisz. Like the women, both of the birds were locked in a cage so they did not “[have] the privilege of quitting their society whenever they ceased to be entertaining,” unlike Edna Pontellier’s husband, Leonce Pontellier. In this scene he is seated outside his cottage on Grand Isle when the parrot begins to chirp, “Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en!
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As Edna is talking to Mademoiselle Reisz about her flight to live a life on her own she says, “[Mademoiselle Reisz] put her arms around [her] and felt [her] shoulder blades, to see if [her] wings were strong.” (138). While Edna may be ready to begin her journey of society as a free women Mademoiselle Reisz warns her that the journey is not easy. She tells her that, “The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.” (138). The bird is important to this work as a whole because it helps to clarify that the you need to be strong to break the rules of many traditions. Without the analogy of the bird, wings, and flight it may seem only a minor accomplishment, rather than a major change in the way society is run as a
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