Metaphor in The Awakening

Metaphor Examples in The Awakening:

Chapter XII 1

"Edna felt as if she were being borne away from some anchorage which had held her fast, whose chains had been loosening—had snapped the night before when the mystic spirit was abroad, leaving her free to drift whithersoever she chose to set her sails. ..."   (Chapter XII)

The chains that have snapped can be interpreted as the “chains” of society and social expectations. The larger metaphor comparing Edna to a boat suggests motion, exploration, and boundless freedom. In this metaphor, Edna conveys that she has broken with her past way of thinking and become an independent person.

"Her head, set off by her dainty white gown,..."   (Chapter XV)

“Head” in this context can be read both literally and metaphorically. Her physical head is offset by her attire and her mental awakening is offset by the innocence and femininity of her dainty white gown. Edna has experienced an awakening but still appears to conform to her feminine role.

"The atmosphere of the stables and the breath of the blue grass paddock revived in her memory and lingered in her nostrils...."   (Chapter XXV)

The horses at the track carry an important metaphorical meaning. Since classical antiquity, horses have symbolized the more animalistic aspects of human nature. The Greek centaur, for example—half-human, half-horse—represents the power of the unconscious with its animal and sexual drives. The sight of the horses stir these drives within Edna. Edna’s growing awareness of her sexual nature is, after all, one of the novel’s primary themes.

"Joe is working over at the ‘pigeon house’—that's the name Ellen gives it,..."   (Chapter XXIX)

The nickname of Edna’s home—the ‘pigeon house’—evokes again the motif of the bird. As Mademoiselle Reisz tells Edna in Chapter XXVII, “the bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.” Edna is the bird who desires freedom from society constraints. Thus, the house that will allow Edna such freedom is called the “pigeon house.”