Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

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Motif 2: The Awakening

The Awakening

Kate Chopin, 1899
Famous for: A free-thinking leading lady who refused to be caged by society's expectations. A beginning and an ending at the ocean.

The Awakening and A Streetcar Named Desire both use music as a metaphorGotta love the Farival twins. They’re joined at the hip–or at the piano bench, anyway. Adorable in blue and white (colors they’ve worn since their baptismal dedication to the Virgin Mary). Practicing, playing…annoying Mademoiselle Reisz.

As for La Mademoiselle, she’s the pianist and grande dame who awakens Edna to the potential and peril of life as an artist…and free spirit. What with Reisz’s performances and the twins’ keyboard clomping, there’s quite a bit of music in The Awakening.

Enough, in fact, to call it a motif.


 

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We’ve talked a lot about self-expression in the last few recaps—especially the difficulties Edna faces in expressing herself freely.

And that’s why the motif of music is important in this novel—it reinforces what Chopin is saying about a woman’s ability to be herself, especially in relation to art.

In Chapter 9, you encounter the first significant music-related scene—the Farival twins’ competent but unremarkable piano performance. Their playing is pleasant but not provocative.

And they play for the sake of others instead of for themselves.

By contrast, both at the end of Chapter 9 and at the end of Chapter 21, Mademoiselle Reisz offers a completely different kind of performance. Her playing is passionate and provokes an emotional response in Edna.

And Mademoiselle Reisz plays, first and foremost, for herself—as a form of artistic expression.

This juxtaposition between two types of music reinforces the idea that in the Victorian society of The Awakening, the use of art as a form of self-expression is both unconventional and rebellious.

Mademoiselle Reisz may be an artist, but this choice has rendered her an outcast.

 

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