The couple vacation on Grande Isle, a popular resort of French Quarter families on the Gulf Coast.While on vacation, Edna begins to make discoveries about herself and the world around her and initiate her awakening.
Chopin uses symbolism in The Awakening to explore the interdependence of female sexuality and gender roles to challenge cultural assumptions of the women of the late-nineteenth century.
Chopins’ The Awakening is a story of the emotional journey of the protagonist, Edna Pontellier, who is a young Kentuckian woman of twenty-eight married to Leonce Pontellier, a successful New Orleans businessman, with two young sons during the Victorian era of 1899.
Kate Chopin uses powerful and significant symbolism in The Awakening to depict the feminist ideas involving women’s longing for sexual and personal emancipation through the development of the main character, Edna Pontellier, as she recognizes the extent of her passion and ultimately the disappointment after the realization of her inevitable limitations in life.
Symbolism is used to tell the story of Edna’s journey toward self-discovery and the pursuit of her desires and freedom while defying Victorian society’s expectations and her limited domestic female role of wife and mother.
Edna begins as a beautiful caged parrot and the image eventually transforms into a disabled bird that flies freely.
The novel begins with a scene including Madame Lebrun’s caged and hostile parrot that is shrieking at Edna’s annoyed husband, Leonce, and a singing mockingbird.
She lusts after a young man on the island, Robert Lebrun, who flees to business in Mexico and denies Edna in the end.
She returns to New Orleans with her husband with a broken heart after their vacation and continues to feel her repressed passion, which leads her to having an adulterous affair with Alcee Arobin.
Birds and water appear to be the most significant symbols that represent the development of Edna’s character in The Awakening as she begins to stray from her assigned duties as wife, mother, and the conventions of Victorian society.
Even the women characters in the story serve as symbols to identify the different models of Victorian women from “outcast” to the ideal “mother-woman”.