The Awakening

Kate Chopin

Chapters XXV–XXIX

Summary Chapters XXV–XXIX

The house’s nickname foreshadows Edna’s tragic fate. While it does provide Edna with independence and isolation, allowing her to progress in her sexual awakening and to throw off Léonce’s authority, Edna will soon find that it offers less liberty than it initially seemed to promise. Edna escapes the gilded cage that Léonce’s house constituted, but she confines herself within a new sort of cage. Social convention—and Robert’s concession to it—continues to keep Edna trapped and domesticated. Indeed, not only may Edna’s move have failed to improve her lot, the text’s symbolism suggests that the change of house may threaten actual damage to the vibrancy of her spirit. Whereas Edna was initially associated, in Chapter I, with a brightly colored and multilingual caged parrot, she is now likened to a dull gray pigeon, a comparatively languid and inarticulate creature.

Mademoiselle Reisz recognizes in Edna the same desire for escape and independence with which she has lived her own life. Knowing the hardships that Edna will face in her struggle to live outside convention, the older woman warns her protégé of the strength she will need, much in the same manner of her earlier advice on the “brave” and “courageous” artistic soul. Mademoiselle Reisz’s counsel about the bird fluttering back to earth continues the novel’s extended metaphorical association of Edna to a bird. It is also an obvious foreshadowing of Edna’s death; the image returns just before Edna’s suicide.