The Awakening

by

Kate Chopin

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Awakening can help.
Birds Symbol Icon

As in many Romantic works of the 19th century, birds in The Awakening are symbols of freedom and imagination. In flight, they soar above earthly rules and inhibitions. They observe the world from a cool distance, like passengers on a plane watching abstract squares of farmland. The power of flight (imagination) allows the birds to escape the laws of the earth.

Such freedom comes with a price, however. The novel’s birds symbolize both the joys of freedom and its potential dangers. As she listens to Mademoiselle Reisz’s music, Edna imagines a man watching a bird flying into the distance. Later, Edna’s story about illicit love makes her listeners hear the romantic rustling of birds in the dark. In both instances, birds are markers of forbidden desire. And as the book draws to its conclusion, birds become warning signs. Edna watches a bird with a broken wing float down to the ocean in the moments before she drowns.

Get the entire The Awakening LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Awakening PDF

Birds Symbol Timeline in The Awakening

The timeline below shows where the symbol Birds appears in The Awakening. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
...of summer cottages at Grand Isle, a vacation spot near New Orleans. Madame Lebrun’s noisy parrot begins to annoy him, so he relocates to a chair outside his own cottage. There,... (full context)
Chapter 27
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Realism and Romanticism Theme Icon
...Arobin dismisses the thought. She remembers something interesting Mademoiselle Reisz had said about a wayward bird needing strong wings; Arobin has heard only unpleasant things about the pianist, and wishes Edna... (full context)
Chapter 39
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...soul to them. The sea in front of her is inviting and solitary, and a bird with a broken wing is circling overhead. (full context)