Symbolism in Kate Chopin's The Awakening

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The Story by Kate Chopin

The story by Kate Chopin is set back in the 1890s and is narrated in the third person by the unknown narrator. Throughout the story, Kate employs particular stylistic and structural techniques to heighten the drama thus making the title to fit the subject appropriately. Moreover, the story is short and comprises the sequence of short paragraphs. The story starts with Mrs. Mallard having the heart condition after realizing her husband had died due to the accident while her sister Josephine sits and dances around. Richard is Mr. Mallard’s friend who is hanging out with them for the moral support since he knew about the incident after being at the newspaper headquarters. In most part of the story, Chopin uses symbolism to depict the themes of marriage, freedom, independence, and identity.

Symbolism of the Heart Condition

Initially, the heart condition is used to symbolize Mrs. Mallard’s marriage since the heart is typically used to illustrate love. Based on the story, Kate suggests that marriages are oppressive since Louise feels joy after realizing that her husband was dead despite admitting that Mr. Mallard was a loving and kind husband. “She had loved him-sometimes. Often she had not” (Chopin 2). Based on this line, it is clear that the weak heart of Mrs. Mallard symbolizes a possibility of weakness or absences of love in the marriage. The storyteller depicts that “there would be no powerful will bending her” (Chopin 2). The sentences explain the joy feelings of Mrs. Mallard due to the death of her husband hence indicating the marriage was oppressive to an extent of causing heart issues. Also, an individual with a heart problem would not deal with death news in a better way similar to that of Louise which is a clear indication that she was suffering from marriage repression.

Independence and Acquired Freedom

Secondly, the theme of independence and acquired freedom is symbolically noticeable when Mrs. Mallard cries while sitting in the room upstairs. The writer tells readers that Mrs. Mallard was able to observe “the tops of trees with new spring of life” (Chopin 1). The line explains the new beginning meaning that Louise has to start another life rather than continuing with the oppressive marriage. Furthermore, the open window where Louise gazes symbolizes the freedom as well as opportunities that await her due to the end of marriage. Mrs. Mallard is able to see fluffy clouds, treetops and blue sky together with singing birds and smells of rainstorm which demonstrates that she is able to start a new life full of joy. Moreover, the open window offers the clear and bright view to Louise symbolizing freedom and independent future.

Theme of Identity

Besides, Kate demonstrates the theme of identity by making the reader recognize Mrs. Mallard’s first name through Josephine. The word Louise symbolizes that Mrs. Mallard has obtained a new role in her life after the death of Mr. Mallard. She is no longer trapped, restricted or confined in the marriage thus she is free to express herself. Based on the introduction of the first name, Chopin suggests that ladies lose their individuality or identity when married since they are dominated by men. Conclusively, Kate utilizes different symbols to emphasize the themes of marriage, identity, freedom, and independence. In the entire story, the author is able to depict the real picture of the scenario as well as making the ideas easily understandable by the reader.

Work Cited

Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. Joe Books Limited, 17 Apr. 2018.

August 21, 2023


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Kate Chopin The Awakening

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