The Awakening

The Soul and the Butterfly: A Comparison of Psyche and Edna

Within the School of Myth, many critics have associated Chopin's Edna Pontellier with the mythical figure Psyche. The Greek word for "psyche" translates as "soul" or "butterfly." Both words insinuate a change or an awakening. A soul continually learns, morphs, and adapts to its revelations and like the soul - or the butterfly, more amazing than ever - emerges from a cocoon after being in a dormant stage for an extended period of time. An online article describes the analogy beautifully:

There is no illustration of the immortality of the soul so striking and beautiful as the butterfly, bursting on brilliant wings from the tomb in which it has lain, after a dull, groveling, caterpillar existence, to flutter in the blaze of day and feed on the most fragrant and delicate productions of the spring. Psyche, then, is the human soul, which is purified by sufferings and misfortunes, and is thus prepared for the enjoyment of true and pure happiness.1

For the readers of The Awakening, we get a glimpse at an awakening which affects many levels (emotional and sexual) with Edna, a woman who once conformed to the two-dimensional way of seeing the world and herself. In comparison to Psyche, Edna's...

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