Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

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Symbol 1: 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.

Bird symbols in The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Mademoiselle Reisz had way of getting under Edna’s skin. Like the time she warned Edna: “The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.”

But in The Awakening‘s final chapter, as she prepares to walk into the ocean, Edna sees “a bird with a broken wing…reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water.”

Yes, the birds in The Awakening, could not make their symbolic importance more obvious if they dropped their eggs on your head.


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The birds in this book are hard to miss. Just take a look at The Awakening’s first line: “A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over: Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en!”

So what does a French-speaking parrot have to do with anything? Actually, it’s a symbol with two meanings.

First, look at the way Chopin characterizes the parrot: It’s in a cage and it’s speaking a foreign language.

Kind of like Edna, right? Of course, Edna isn’t literally caged or literally speaking a foreign language. But she is “caged” in that she isn’t free to be an artist or to live a fully-realized life.

Likewise, even when Edna does find some kind of freedom—by painting her pictures and moving into her own home—no one in her community understands. She’s speaking a language that’s foreign to them—the language of female freedom.

One other note about this symbol. Birds don’t just represent Edna’s plight in this story; they also symbolize all women of this time period. Women in the Victorian era were trapped by the society in which they lived…

…Just as that the parrot we meet at the beginning of The Awakening is confined by his tiny cage.


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