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Many novels
throughout English literature are focused on some heroic being and end joyfully.
These unrealistic happy endings depict a vital issue in human nature. These
novels share stories about people facing adversity, overcoming obstacles, and
eventually achieving success. However, it is crucial to understand why these
stories create a false hope.These stories create the impression that courage
pays off and that the ending will always bring satisfaction. However, The Awakening by Kate Chopin does not hesitate to expose a realistic ending. The
protagonist, Edna Pontellier searches for independence from the male-controlled
constraints that suffocate her. The broken bird symbolizes that Edna was a casualty
of society; her wings were too weak. Not every story ends happily ever after.

Edna Pontellier is displeased with married
life and the consequences of her attempts to attain greater self-awareness. Chopin’s
symbolism of a bird, the talking “parrot” and “mocking-bird” represents the
freedom Edna can experience. However, her ability to live in a free world is prohibited
due to her conventional lifestyle inflicted by her irrational husband. The delicate,
innocent bird is locked up in a “cage” unable to fly freely and is teased by
the outside world, just like Edna. The “cage” emphasizes the restrictive
qualities Edna’s husband exerts over her. Edna’s wings are tied down. As Edna lives
inside her head she seeks a life no one seems to understand. This is like the
parrot trapped in a cage speaking a “language which nobody understood”. Another
form of symbolism which represents the backwards way in which society was
structured is Madame Lebrun’s ownership over her birds. The parrot and mocking-bird
are her “property” and this is no different than the way Mr. Pontellier views
his wife. Although, Chopin does not hesitate to introduce the reader with the
concept of the right to choose, “and they had the right to make all the noise
they wished”. This amplifies Edna’s aspirations to be a free woman and ignore
the abrupt remarks her husband makes.  

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As Edna finds the key to unlock the cage, Mr. Pontellier is disgusted
with her aspirations to be a free woman. This new, foreign piece of life is
different from the conventional lifestyle she kept “repeating over and over”. Now,
the bird is out of the “cage” and Edna has her entire life ahead to experience independence.
Chopin initially illustrates the bird in the cage as protected and guiltless,
but the high expectations Edna has as she sets off to be a free woman quickly
drops. A new image of the bird more accurately describes Edna’s transformation,
“It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back
to earth”. Diction such as “soar” contradicts “fluttering” as we no longer see
a bird flying freely in open air, we receive an image of a bird hesitating,
making quick unexplainable movements. As Edna attempts to accomplish a greater
inner-self she comes in contact with obstacles which ultimately move the finish
line further away. Edna never really accomplished being a free woman because she
was never really set free from her cage, it was all just an illusion. Chopin’s idea
of the ending was not dramatic, it was one of the more realistic endings presented
within literature. Edna’s death is symbolic because the reader was left with an
image of “a bird with a broken wing”. This helps portray a realistic part of life,
failure. Edna was attracted to the peaceful, “inviting soul of the sea” however
Edna quickly changed the way she saw the sea’s purpose. Edna used the sea to
inflict self-harm, and drown and die. Edna ending her life is proof that her
wings were not strong enough, but it also represents Enda freeing herself from
social constraints and her possessive husband. Overall, a not so happy ending
is the most realistic part of life.

 

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