Clothing: A Symbol In Kate Chopin's The Awakening

             In the novel, The Awakening, Kate Chopin takes Edna Pontellier on a journey of self-discovery. In doing this, she uses many symbols to show the relationship between Edna and the world. Clothing, or rather, the lack thereof, displays this relationship well. As Edna progresses throughout the novel, she discards more and more layers of the confining "clothing" that surrounds her body and soul. By taking off her clothing, one piece at a time, she disobeys the rules that society has set for her, and in doing this, she exerts her independence. In this summer voyage, Edna becomes a free woman.
             In the Victorian society that Edna lives in, the proper attire for women requires them to wear very confining clothing. This clothing symbolizes the constraints on the social behavior of women in this age. It restricts Edna's body and impedes her freedom to move. At the beginning of the novel, fully dressed Edna wears all the proper clothing. However, when Edna and Adele walk together to the beach, Edna wears considerably less clothing than that of her companion. Adele wears a veil, gloves, and ruffles to protect her body. Edna wears a thinner, simple dress and removes her collar and unbuttons her dress at the throat once at the beach. She chooses not to cover herself as harshly as Adele. Adele portrays the picture of a perfect Victorian woman through her manner of dress. Edna's decision to free herself more than Adele symbolizes her growing rejection of Victorian society rules.
             Edna becomes distraught when she discovers her friend, Robert, is leaving. She goes home and sheds her clothes for a more comfortable wrap. She casts off more layers of conventional Victorian clothing, thus discarding more societal rules. She does not like the idea of joining Mrs. Lebrun in her home because she must put on the restricting clothing once again. This means to her that she would have to give up some of her new found freed...

More Essays:

APA     MLA     Chicago
Clothing: A Symbol In Kate Chopin's The Awakening. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:02, August 14, 2020, from