Grand Isle vs the Awakening

Published: 2021-09-10 21:30:08
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Category: The Awakening

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The Awakening, is considered one of the first texts addressing the concerns of the feminist movement. The story revolves around a small group of friends from New Orleans who vacation together on Grand Isle each summer, the main character being Edna Pontellier. On the other hand, there’s a film entitled Grand Isle, which is a direct translation of Chopin’s novel. Both The Awakening and Grand Isle make use of setting, symbols, and characters to reveal the ultimate theme of the work: that nobody is free from society.
Grand Isle is a very complete adaptation of The Awakening and with only a couple minor details altered, the film takes Chopin’s novel and completely translates it 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 well filmed 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 the story 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 coastal islands for the summer to escape the heat of the city. On a higher level, the two main elements of the setting, the city and the island, or civilization and the wilderness, serve as symbols. The city, or civilization, symbolizes oppression by societal demands, while the island, or wilderness, symbolizes freedom from society’s watch. When Edna is residing in the city, she is weighed down by society’s expectations of her.
She must be home on certain calling days, she must be subservient to her husband, 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 the island for the summer, Edna is freed from many of her duties. Her husband is often away with business, her children spend the days playing at the beach, the other inhabitants live so close as to make calling obsolete, and Edna is left with a sense of freedom from all which holds her down in the city.
Another important aspect in The Awakening and Grand Isle is symbols. Most obviously, water is continually contrasted against land as a source of freedom. As is typical in much of literature, the water serves as a symbol of free will and lack of restraints. Just as the ocean cannot be forced to move in any controlled way and is not enclosed by any sort of container, Edna feels that, while in the water, she has complete autonomy over her life. On land, however, this independence is lost, as she must once again conform to the conventions of society.
Edna’s suicide by drowning in the ocean represents her achievement of ultimate release from society, for social restrictions cannot impede the dead. Birds serve as another motif throughout the novel and the movie, also a symbol of freedom. As birds are not confined to two dimensions of movement, like human beings and all land dwelling animals, they are seen as unchained from the ground, free to move about at will in the spacious and seemingly unlimited sky.
Like a bird, Edna feels that she should also be able to move and act at whim, yet like many of the birds in the novel and the film, she is caged and tied down by the constraints of society. At the end of the novel, although this detail is missing from the film adaptation, a sea bird with a broken wing is seen flying above the ocean. The bird, though still free, still somewhat able to fly, does not have the complete, ideal freedom of the other birds.
This bird represents 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 an imperfect manner, or remain completely restricted and tied down. Characters, especially Edna and her two foils, are important elements of both the novel and the film. As a woman in a very traditional social position, Adele Ratignolle is an extreme opposite of Edna. Adele’s entire life revolves around her husband and children, and she exists entirely within, and without questioning the constraints set up by society.
This is the type of woman that Edna feels so strongly that she should not be. On the other extreme is Mademoiselle Reisz, who is not married and is portrayed as absolutely independent; she has cast off the most traditional roles of women by remaining unmarried and childless, and she often scoffs 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 of these characters are symbols for different eras of women.
Chopin uses Adele to represent the traditional woman, happy with her lack of freedom because she knows nothing else. Edna embodies the feminist movement, representing change and movement towards independence. Mademoiselle Reisz is the future woman, the woman that the feminist movement hopes to release. She is the fundamental goal of the feminist revolution. Overall, while The Awakening and Grand Isle are almost completely the same, they both portray one woman’s awakening to the realization that society is confining, and her conviction that she must follow her newfound awareness or risk being held down forever.

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