Symbolism for Independence and Freedom in Kate Chopin's "The Awakening"

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_____In this novel, symbolism plays a major part in shaping the story. The most important aspects of this story are Edna's longing for freedom and independence. These two yearnings are represented in many ways. One of the more important symbols for independence is clothing.

_____At various points throughout the novel, Edna begins to shed more and more clothing. This symbolizes her shedding of all the Victorian values and conventions that make her feel disenchanted and depressed. At the house in Cheniere Caminada, Edna takes off many pieces of clothing and is then free to sleep and escape from reality. Also, when she swims, Edna is in the least amount of clothes and feels more comfortable. She also seems to be very interested those around her who tend to not worry so much about clothing. Mademoiselle Reisz is the perfect example. Her lack of keeping up with the latest fashion symbolizes her independence from society and the Victorian conventions, which include having to dress a certain way.

Edna seems very interested in the young woman Robert talks to on the boat because she allows much of her skin to show and seems very at ease with the world. The widow in black is another example. Her clothing reflects her independence not from society, but from some of the trappings of married life. When she swims for the last time, Edna is naked and therefore fully independent. Here she is also free.

_____Another symbol of freedom deals with the houses and the ocean. In the houses on Grand Isle and in New Orleans, Edna is like a caged bird. She cannot be herself at these places. At Grand Isle she expected to be the "motherwoman" while in New Orleans she is expected to be somewhat of a receptionist,