In Kate Chopin's brief novel The Awakening, Mademoiselle Reiz tells Edna, "The bird that would soar above the level of plain tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.  It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth" (page 83). What does this quote mean and how does it relate to Edna's situation in the novel?

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Mademoiselle Reisz is a key character in Kate Chopin'sThe Awakening. She represents two contrasting models of womanhood in the novel. The other model, that of the "mother-woman," is represented by Adele Ratignolle. Reisz, on the other hand, represents the single woman who, because of her complete commitment to her art and to other intellectual pursuits, has no husband or children. Her advice to Edna is important in several ways, including the following:

  1. The reference to a "bird" is part of the novel's whole emphasis on bird imagery, which begins in the book's very first paragraph and which continues until almost the very end of the work. Thus the imagery contributes to the unity of the novel.
  2. The use of the verb "soar" implies that most women (indeed, most people) never do "soar" in their lives; they never go over and above what is expected of them or what conventional roles dictate. The person who soars is a person with unusual, lofty aspirations. Clearly Reisz regards herself as such a...

(The entire section contains 570 words.)

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