Symbolism is defined as "The practice of representing things by means of symbols or, of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships."" (dictionary) One of the most obvious factors in Kate Chopin's Novel, The Awakening, is symbolism. Many of the objects found through out the novel have more of a meaning that what meets the eye. Objects are used to define people, places, things or beliefs within the entire story, and understanding these symbols is imperative to express full enjoyment of the narrative. I believe that through out the book Chopin uses symbols to emphasize characters and to illustrate a deeper meaning within the entire story. .
There are many examples of symbolism used throughout the novel. Many are connected with the characters themselves. One example of this that is used throughout the novel is the idea of birds. The idea of caged birds is a reminder of the entrapment that Edna has to live through. The character Madame Lebrun has a parrot and a mockingbird. Some believe that these two animals represent Edna and Madame Reisz. Similar to the birds, the women feel as if their movements are restricted. Another idea of the caged birds is that Edna and Madame Reisz are incapable of communication with the world. .
Because these birds are incapable of flying they can only undergo the experience the life that has been made for them. As opposed to the idea of the parrot and the mocking bird, Chopin symbolizes strength and freedom with the idea of wild birds. One textual example is when Edna is encouraged by Mademoiselle Reisz to pursue her art. Mademoiselle Reisz examines Edna's shoulder blades to make sure they are strong: "The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings."" (Chopin 110).
Another very popular symbol in The Awakening is the idea of water. There are many different accounts in the book when water is significant, from the Gulf which Edna learned to swim to her final demise in the Sea.