The Awakening

Symbol of Clothing

In the novel, The Awakening, Kate Chopin takes Edna Pontellier on a journey of self-discovery. In doing this, she uses many symbols to show the relationship between Edna and the world. Clothing, or rather, the lack thereof, displays this relationship well. As Edna progresses throughout the novel, she discards more and more layers of the confining ìclothingî that surrounds her body and soul. By taking off her clothing, one piece at a time, she disobeys the rules that society has set for her, and in doing this, she exerts her independence. In this summer voyage, Edna becomes a free woman.

In the Victorian society that Edna lives in, the proper attire for women requires them to wear very confining clothing. This clothing symbolizes the constraints on the social behavior of women in this age. It restricts Edna's body and impedes her freedom to move. At the beginning of the novel, fully dressed Edna wears all the proper clothing. However, when Edna and Adele walk together to the beach, Edna wears considerably less clothing than that of her companion. Adele wears a veil, gloves, and ruffles to protect her body. Edna wears a thinner, simple dress and removes her collar and unbuttons her dress at the throat once at the beach. She...

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