The Awakening of America

March 18, 2008
Often in life, simple objects can mean something more significant to a community or a specific person than their objective existence. One object that means something important to one person may not mean anything to another person. The representation of certain objects to have a deeper meaning or to signify events or relationships is called symbolism.

A well known symbol in the United States is the American Flag. Although other countries may just see a red, white, and blue flag, and not think of our flag as having any importance, we look at the flag in a completely different way. Color is a very important symbol when talking about a country’s flag. The color red represents revolution, courage, blood, life, and spirit; white symbolizes innocence and purity; while blue represents justice and perseverance. Each individual color represents a different strength that the United States has, and all the strengths work together to make our country the way it is today. Our flag has thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with six white. The thirteen original colonies are represented by the thirteen stripes on the flag. There are also fifty white stars on our flag, one for each state. The white stars represent our innocent and pure fifty states of the United States of America. The greatest symbol of the American flag is independence; we are our own country and don’t belong to anyone else.

In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Edna, the main character, is afraid of swimming. Edna overcomes her fear by learning to swim on her own. Edna realizes that she doesn’t need other people teaching and telling her what to do she can do things on her own. When Edna realizes she has just conquered her biggest fear on her own, she is proud of herself. "She was seeking herself and finding herself in just such sweet, half-darkness which met her moods. (118).” Edna believes she has found herself through teaching herself how to swim. She feels that she can do anything on her own after she conquers her fear of swimming; the reader later finds out that her excessive confidence leads to her death. For Edna, swimming represents independence, just as the American Flag represents independence for us. America is an independent country, which makes it easy for us to deal with issues as a whole. Edna grows so independent that she blocks out everyone around her and just can’t make it on her own.

Another well known symbol in America is the bald eagle. The eagle represents the living symbol of freedom in the United States of America. The eagle is a rare bird, on the list of extinction in North America and that’s one reason the Eagle is so significant. The United States chose the eagle as our bird because it is so hard to find, symbolizing that America is one of the only places in the world you will find freedom. The wings on the eagle signify protection and freedom; without wings, the eagle wouldn’t be able to fly. When an eagle, or any bird can’t fly, their freedom is taken away. The bird would be trapped in one place not being able to explore the world or do what she wanted to do. In other words, the bird would feel as if she were locked in a cage and couldn’t get out.

In Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Edna learns how to swim on her own which represents her independence. Edna wants nothing to do with her family or anyone in the outside world; she only concentrates on herself. At the end of the novel, Edna is so confident with herself and swimming that she decides to swim out farther than she can handle. As Edna is drowning, birds are flying above her head, when all of a sudden a bird with a broken wing falls into the water. "A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water (99)". The bird with the broken wing symbolizes that Edna’s freedom is no longer going to work. Edna has a husband and children to attend to and she is not paying any attention to them. She just pays attention to herself and does what she wants to do. "He reproached his wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children. If it was not a mother's place to look after children, whose on earth was it? (110).” Edna’s husband doesn’t understand why she can’t show any affection towards the children. He notices how she has been blocking out her own family and doesn’t know whats going on. The bird with the broken wing also represents the ending of Edna’s independence because sooner or later she has to realize that she can’t make it on her own.

Throughout life, you will find certain objects that mean something to you that might not mean anything to someone else. Often in literature, the symbols that the authors use can relate to the real world somehow. In America, the American flag represents our independence, whereas in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Edna learning how to swim represents her individual independence. Also, in America the bald eagle represents freedom, whereas in The Awakening the bird with the broken wing falling into the water represents Edna’s freedom coming to an end. "A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before (127)." Edna believes in herself so much that her desicions lead to her death. The symbols Kate Chopin uses in The Awakening relate easily to the real world.

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