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Ecocriticism In The Awakening Essay

1073 words - 5 pages

Ecocriticism in The Awakening

Nature in The Awakening was used symbolically to represent the freedom to break free from the traditional placement of women during the nineteenth century. Although The Awakening is not typically applauded for its emphasis on “nature writing”, the direct correlation between the environment and the main character’s (Edna) choice to break free from society’s tendency to categorize women as sinners or saints. Using The Awakening and Glotfelty’s definition of ecocriticism, it will be shown that the environment plays a major part in the theme of the novel. In order to fully grasp the environmental connection between what is usually determined as a “gender” novel, ...view middle of the document...

16). Edna acknowledges the water but doesn’t put the connection together that the sail is working to convince her to make an escape to nature. The sail could take her away to a place where she is not a mother, a woman, or put into a category. She thinks of the ocean as a picture, as a dream, but not a place where she could realistically escape, despite that the environment is almost pushing her out of the tight hold of a nineteenth century “typical” woman.
Another aspect of nature that is symbolically affecting the way the reader views The Awakening would be the parrot. The parrot says, “Go away! Go away! For God’s sake!” (Chopin p. 3). The parrot is literally telling Edna to leave society, to not be stuck living in a world where she cannot escape tradition, but to face who she really is. The parrot knows she is not happy being a mother; it knows that she wants more, but if she were to announce that she is unhappy, society would deem her as a sinner. Edna, after being annoyed with the parrot, leaves with a look of disgust. She is disgusted by the thought of actually leaving her comfortable place as a saint. Even though she is not happy, she does not want to risk being a “sinner”. She does not know that she does not have to choose. She can live outside of society’s tyranny, freely in nature.
At the end of the book, the readers are able to clearly see how the environment relates to Edna’s decision to leave society. In fact, using Glotfelty’s definition of ecocriticism, we are able to use that connection to justify how the whole novel represents nature interacting with humans. Glotfelty’s definition is simply, “the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment” (Glotfelty). The ocean, at the end, becomes an escape from her life. When Edna jumps into the water and swims, she is symbolically choosing to leave society. The ocean, or nature, opens up its arms for her, and when she “was besides the sea, absolutely alone, she cast...

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