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MugilanManokaran160738 The Awakening, is considered one of the first texts addressing the concernsof the feminist movement. The story revolves around a small group of friendsfrom New Orleans who vacation together on Grand Isle each summer, the maincharacter being Edna Pontellier. On the other hand, there’s a film entitled Grand Isle,which is a direct translation of Chopins novel. Both The Awakening and GrandIsle make use of setting, symbols, and characters to reveal the ultimate theme of thework: that nobody is free from society. Grand Isle is a very complete adaptation of The Awakening and with only acouple minor details altered, the film takes Chopins novel and completely translatesit into a different medium, often quoting the novel exactly in character dialogue.Disregarding its origins and influences, as a work of art on its own, Grand Isle is wellfilmed with an enjoyable cast and portrays its main themes completely. The novel and the film heavily rely on setting, both to stage the events of thestory and as a method of symbolism. The setting of the novel is historically accurate.Many families living in New Orleans and similar cities would retreat to small coastalislands for the summer to escape the heat of the city. On a higher level, the two mainelements of the setting, the city and the island, or civilization and the wilderness,serve as symbols. The city, or civilization, symbolizes oppression by societaldemands, while the island, or wilderness, symbolizes freedom from societys watch.When Edna is residing in the city, she is weighed down by societys expectations ofher. She must be home on certain calling days, she must be subservient to herhusband, she must put her children before all else, and she must be the person that
conformed society encourages her to be. On the other hand, when she is on theisland for the summer, Edna is freed from many of her duties. Her husband is oftenaway with business, her children spend the days playing at the beach, the otherinhabitants live so close as to make calling obsolete, and Edna is left with a sense offreedom from all which holds her down in the city. Another important aspect in The Awakening and Grand Isle is symbols. Mostobviously, water is continually contrasted against land as a source of freedom. As istypical in much of literature, the water serves as a symbol of free will and lack ofrestraints. Just as the ocean cannot be forced to move in any controlled way and isnot enclosed by any sort of container, Edna feels that, while in the water, she hascomplete autonomy over her life. On land, however, this independence is lost, asshe must once again conform to the conventions of society. Ednas suicide bydrowning in the ocean represents her achievement of ultimate release from society,for social restrictions cannot impede the dead. Birds serve as another motifthroughout the novel and the movie, also a symbol of freedom. As birds are notconfined to two dimensions of movement, like human beings and all land dwellinganimals, they are seen as unchained from the ground, free to move about at will inthe spacious and seemingly unlimited sky. Like a bird, Edna feels that she shouldalso be able to move and act at whim, yet like many of the birds in the novel and thefilm, she is caged and tied down by the constraints of society. At the end of thenovel, although this detail is missing from the film adaptation, a sea bird with abroken wing is seen flying above the ocean. The bird, though still free, still somewhatable to fly, does not have the complete, ideal freedom of the other birds. This birdrepresents Edna, as she cannot have ideal freedom, for society will always be a
constricting factor, so she must, like the injured bird, choose to be free in animperfect manner, or remain completely restricted and tied down. Characters, especially Edna and her two foils, are important elements of boththe novel and the film. As a woman in a very traditional social position, AdeleRatignolle is an extreme opposite of Edna. Adeles entire life revolves around herhusband and children, and she exists entirely within, and without questioning theconstraints set up by society. This is the type of woman that Edna feels so stronglythat she should not be. On the other extreme is Mademoiselle Reisz, who is notmarried and is portrayed as absolutely independent; she has cast off the mosttraditional roles of women by remaining unmarried and childless, and she oftenscoffs at many other aspects of society and the people who sustain those aspects.This is the type of woman that Edna looks up to and aspires to emulate. All three ofthese characters are symbols for different eras of women. Chopin uses Adele torepresent the traditional woman, happy with her lack of freedom because she knowsnothing else. Edna embodies the feminist movement, representing change andmovement towards independence. Mademoiselle Reisz is the future woman, thewoman that the feminist movement hopes to release. She is the fundamental goal ofthe feminist revolution. Overall, while The Awakening and Grand Isle are almost completely thesame, they both portray one womans awakening to the realization that society isconfining, and her conviction that she must follow her newfound awareness or riskbeing held down forever.