What are the main images and symbols in Chopin's The Awakening?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are so many it is difficult to choose!  One example that you can trace through the novel is birds.  The novel starts with the symbol of a caged bird, and references birds in several other chapters as well.  The caged bird is a clear symbol for Edna as she feels caged in her roles of wife and mother and in the expectations that the Creole society has imposed on her.  Later in the novel Reisz questions whether Edna has strong enough wings to fly above the social conventions of the time to be truly free of the rules and norms of the day.  In the end, Edna sees a bird with a broken wing, just as she is not strong enough (or willing enough) to struggle on this society.  She lets herself drown in the ocean much the bird has the taste of freedom of flying, but is too weak to go for long. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the major images and symbols in the novel The Awakening is at the very end when Edna drowns herself.  As she goes out into the water, "the foamy wavelets curled up to her white feet, and coiled like serpents about her ankles."  The irony of the scene is that Edna has learned how to swim, so here she is certainly exhibiting an act of agency by swimming far out into the water that used to scare her.  Now, she is not scared and as she swims she recalls all the troubles and misunderstandings of her life.  Her drowning symbolically represents her freeing herself from what she felt was a life of restriction.  Here in the water, she experiences that which her life did not allow.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial