The Awakening

Bird and Sea Symbolize Edna's Awakening

The final, powerful scene of The Awakening by Kate Chopin provides a fitting end to Edna’s long struggle between expectation and desire. Edna’s traditional role of wife and mother holds her back from her wish to be a free woman. Both the sea and the birds in the novel are symbols of freedom in Edna’s mind, and she willingly embraces them. Through the change of these two major symbols, we can draw the conclusion that Edna’s death was a suicide driven by hopelessness.

The symbol of the ocean plays a paramount role in Edna’s awakening. Seen early on as a “seductive” voice that “invit[es] the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation,” the sea and its limitless potential draw Edna into deep thought about her life (25). Despite her infatuation with the ocean, however, Edna is unable to swim at the beginning of the novel. After Edna begins her awakening by growing closer to Robert and hears the music that speaks to her soul, she is suddenly able to swim. This newfound ability is a sign that Edna is separating from the bound life that she despises. Before Edna started spending time with Robert, she was simply going through the motions of life. She obeyed her husband and acted as...

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