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Bird Imagery in *the Awakening*

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 01:19 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 51.5 
  • Words: 1036
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*The Awakening*, written by Kate Chopin in the 1890’s and set around that same time, in the North American state of Louisiana, is a novel that tells the story of a Victorian woman’s quest for self-discovery and her pursuit of her desires, in defiance to the expectations and tradition of a society that fixed a limited domestic role for female human beings. In order to depict the protagonist’s state and development during her journey towards freedom and independence from society’s imposed duties and responsibilities, this literary work relies pretty much on symbolism, particularly bird imagery. On this basis, this essay aims to explore the implications of the various images of birds in the novel and analyse how the different species of birds mentioned – parrot, mockingbird, pigeon – symbolize different ideas.

The novel’s first uttered words are shrieked by a green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage and kept complaining in French: “Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi!” which in English means: “Go away! Go away! For God’s sake!”. This constrained bird mirrors the novel’s protagonist, Mrs. Edna Pontellier, – as well as Victorian women’s predicament - in many respects. Not only is it caged, but it also lacks the possibility to think on its own what it is saying (as it was thought and expected of Victorian women) and instead repeats just what others say. Like Edna, it is valued by society superficially for its physical appearance, making it seem – and being treated like – an object; and though it has the potential to fly, as it has wings, it is limited and cannot use them in this case for escaping, since it is trapped. Additionally, it voices what Edna herself feels later: the need to be left alone and be independent. Most importantly, this confined parrot is said to speak “English, French and a little Spanish”, as well as a “language which nobody understood, unless it was the mocking-bird that hung on the other side of the door, whistling his fluty...


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