The first bird mentioned in the novel, the parrot, speaks loudly from its cage, disturbing the peace of Léonce Pontellier. This parrot represents Edna Pontellier, who is confined to her "cage" of social norms and increasingly disturbs the peace of her husband's privileged and conventional existence. Later Edna is represented by a pigeon when she goes to live in the "pigeon house." This small house is similar in many ways to the parrot's cage; however, a pigeon is a dull-colored bird and a parrot is a vibrantly colored bird, suggesting Edna is losing something vital as she continues her journey of self-discovery. Whether this is the loss of joy and beauty or the loss of womanhood's outward trappings is debatable, though both may be true. In the final scene Edna is represented by the broken-winged bird unable to sustain flight. This suggests Edna does not have the wherewithal to truly embrace her individuality and throw off the shackles of traditional womanhood. She tries, but she cannot fly with a broken wing.
Edna Pontellier, Léonce Pontellier, Women in Society, BirdsHow does the imagery of Edna Pontellier's wedding ring develop in The Awakening, and what does this development suggest?The first rings described in the novel are those Léonce Pontellier returns to Edna Pontellier when she comes back from the beach in Chapter 1. After her husband draws attention to her sunburned skin, Edna notices her rings are missing, including her wedding ring. Silently accepting his criticism about her skin, she replaces the rings on her fingers. In this gesture the rings become symbolic of her husband's control over her. This scene is reversed somewhat in Chapter 17, when Edna removes her wedding ring and tried to crush it. She clearly associates the wedding ring with being trapped in a marriage she finds unsatisfying. Later in the chapter, she again replaces the ring on her finger.Edna Pontellier, Léonce Pontellier, Women in SocietyHow does the Victorian ideal of the "Angel in the House" apply to the main female characters in The Awakening?The Victorian ideal of a woman whose self-sacrificing nature made her a tender mother and compliant wife was put into words by poet Coventry Patmore in his poem "The Angel in the House." The phrase caught on and became shorthand for a variety of behaviors considered becoming of the perfect woman. In The AwakeningChopin portrays Madame Ratignolle as the perfect angel in the house. A loving and attentive mother who produces a baby every few years and gives her entire existence to their care and to her husband's pleasure, she is even garbed in angelic white. Chopin describes Madame Ratignolle and women like her as "mother-women," saying, "they were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels." Chopin portrays Mademoiselle Reisz as the polar opposite.