Theme Of Identity In Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening, is the tale of a woman fighting to discover her identity and become the master of herself. Set in southern Louisiana in 1899, The Awakening is the story of Edna Pontellier, a woman of the Victorian era who is torn between settling for her role of wife and mother and being that which she desires most: having to answer to no one but herself. The story revolves around Edna, her husband Leonce who perceives himself to be the owner and caretaker of Edna, and her friend Mademoiselle Reisz who is unburdened by the rules of society, both of whom are instrumental in shaping Edna’s decisions. In The Awakening, Kate Chopin uses the symbolism of winged creatures to illustrate Edna’s metamorphosis from the property of…show more content…
During an argument with her husband, Edna leaves to sit outside where she begins to cry about the feelings of oppression she begins to experience. During her strange mood, mosquitos attack Edna: “The mosquitos made merry over her […] The stinging, buzzing imps succeeded in dispelling a mood which might have held her there in the darkness half a night longer” (Chopin 15). Chopin uses the mosquitos as a symbol of that oppression and the weight of some nagging thing inside her that begins to surface, but they also symbolize a change in her attitude that demonstrates her growing strength in looking past the demands of her over-bearing husband. Later in the novel, Edna defies Leonce’s expectation when she sleeps in the hammock outside of the house. When Leonce finds her late one night, still lying in the outdoor hammock, he urges her to come inside as if she were a child: “The mosquitoes will devour you” (Chopin 79), to which she responds, “There are no mosquitoes” (Chopin 79). Here, the lack of mosquitos symbolizes Edna’s realization that she can make her own decisions, much to the chagrin of her husband, who also realizes he is losing his authoritative control over Edna. Even Mademoiselle Reisz comments about the annoying insects at the end of the summer vacation, when she says that the summer has been…show more content…
Mademoiselle Reisz suggests that Edna, should she intend to use her wings to express her own individuality, must be strong enough to rise above the social mores and subsequent judgment of those around her. In the end of the novel, Chopin expresses Edna’s fate at the end of the novel as “a bird with a broken wing […] beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water” (300). This imagery symbolizes Eda’s realization that she can never be truly free of her responsibilities toward her children and the conventions of Victorian life, and is analogous to Edna’s ultimate decision to submit herself to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the place where her awakening
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