To Be Or Not To Be Free English Literature Essay

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Kate Chopin begins The Awakening with depictions of Edna as a idiosyncratic stature of women in the Creole Society, as the story progresses, Edna begins to omit herself from society. Chopin mentions birds in a subtle way and implies that caged birds symbolize the entrapment of Victorian women and their social strain in the capitalization society. In the beginning of the novel, Chopin reveals Madame Lebrun's "green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage" (1). The cage represents and reminds Edna of herself being trapped as a women in the ideal mother-women society. The parrot speaks in "a language which nobody understood" (3). The parrot is not able to communicate its feelings, just like Edna, whose true feelings and thoughts are not conveyed; and for this reason, the Creole society does not understand her and what she is enduring as a female. Edna's search for independence and for a way to escape from society's norms is depicted through structural irony by the birds, clothing, and the bird's cage.

However, Mademoiselle Reisz has a great impact on Edna's "awakening". Mademoiselle Reisz is unmarried and bears no children and devotes her life to music. She is a skilled pianist and represents independence and freedom and also serves as a muse to Edna. For Example, while Mademoiselle Reisz is playing her piano, "Edna starts to imagine a man standing on a desolate rock on the seashore"(75). The man Edna envisions has a depressed persona, as is evidenced by his looking toward an unsociable bird flying away from him. The bird in the distance symbolizes Edna's desire of freedom from the social norms of the other women in the Creole society, and the man in the vision shows the longing for the freedom that she is unable to obtain. Chopin uses birds to personify Edna's awakenings. In contrast to caged birds, Chopin uses wild birds and the idea of flight as symbols of freedom. After reliving her awakening experiences on Grand Isle, Edna wishes to dig deep and find something that she is passionate about as Mademoiselle Reisz has done. Edna has taken an interest in becoming an artist, for an artist must have a courageous and defiant soul. Edna starts to conquer her independence in New Orleans by moving into her own house, which she referred to as the pigeon house "because it's so small and looks like a pigeon house" (84). The moniker of the pigeon house is very noteworthy because a pigeon house is a place where pigeons are kept cooped up.

Chopin represents Edna's journey to her ultimate awakening is through the mention of clothes. Clothes are tangible objects that are worn in the society as part of Creole's social norms and thus Edna being a part of the Creole society adheres to the norms. Society conventionally expects the women to dress appropriately and bear no skin, just as Edna is when she is "wearing a cool muslin also a white linen collar and a big straw hat" even while walking on the beach with Adele Ratignolle (14). Adele Ratignolle represents the true definition of Victorian women of the 19th century. She neither takes great honor and pride in her children and the Creole women cliché; while performing her social norm duties as a wife and a mother nor seeks freedom and independence as Edna does. The proper clothing that Edna wears represents her fulfillment of the expectation of society for a woman and wife due to her Creole Society. At the end of the story The Awakening stated "when she was there beside the sea, absolutely alone, she cast the unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and for the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air, at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her" (115). The shedding of Edna's clothing signifies her shedding everything she has known. She is spiritually reborn just as she was born physically nude. Adele Ratignolle does not praise Edna's decision to stray away from the norms of Victorian woman but merely supports her friend in the transformations she undergoes. Adele is also a foil for Mademoiselle Reisz, whose independent and unconventional lifestyle inspires Edna's transgressions.

Subsequently, Kate Chopin's The Awakening attempts to embody Edna's cynicism as she learns that her morals of freedom and independence is going to degrade as she keeps adhering to the social norms of the Creole society. The social norms of the Creole society are to take care of your husband, provide protection for your children, and be easy accessible for visitors at your home. Instead of Edna dying free and independent, she is like the bird that Mademoiselle Reisz once pointed out to Edna: "the bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings" (95). As quoted, if Edna wants to achieve independence and freedom, she has to break free of the social norms and venture into her own pathway, which would lead to her independence and freedom.

Thus, finalizing the situational irony of Edna wanting to have freedom and independence yet she ends up drowning at sea as her finally awakening. Chopin stated that Edna would give her life for her kids, but that was considered a selfish act. Edna did not think of her kids when she killed herself; she merely killed herself because she wanted to escape a life that was forced upon her. In fact, her last thoughts were about her and her childhood. By killing herself, she did the most ironic thing she could have done. Kate Chopin shows "a bird with a broken wing beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water" while Edna is swimming in the ocean at the Grand Isle shortly before she drowns (115). The bird stands for Edna's inability to stray from the norms of society and Edna's ability to become independent without inevitably falling from being incapable of doing everything by her. Instead of Edna controlling her emotions and growing as an individual, she drowns and completes her awakening for independence.