This essay Meghan Reid has a total of 1892 words and 9 pages.
December 1, 1998
Nature and the Human Soul: The Shackles of Freedom
Langston Hughes and Kate Chopin use nature in several dimensions to demonstrate the powerful struggles and burdens of human life. Throughout Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and several of Langston Hughes’ poems, the sweeping imagery of the beauty and power of nature demonstrates the struggles the characters confront, and their eventual freedom from those struggles. Nature and freedom coexist, and the characters eventually learn to find freedom from the confines of society, oneself, and finally freedom within one’s soul. The use of nature for this purpose brings the characters and speakers in Chopin’s and Hughes’ works to life, and the reader feels the life and freedom of those characters. Nature, in the works of Chopin and Hughes serves as a powerful symbol that represents the struggle of the human soul towards freedom, the anguish of that struggle, and the joy when that freedom is finally reached.
In The Awakening, the protagonist Edna Pontellier undergoes a metamorphosis. She lives in Creole society, a society that restricts sexuality, especially for women of the time. Edna is bound by the confines of a loveless marriage, unfulfilled, unhappy, and closed in like a caged bird. During her summer at Grand Isle she is confronted with herself in her truest nature, and finds herself swept away by passion and love for someone she cannot have, Robert Lebrun. The imagery of the ocean at Grand Isle and its attributes symbolize a force calling her to confront her internal struggles, and find freedom. Chopin uses the imagery of the ocean to represent the innate force within her soul that is calling to her. "The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in a maze of inward contemplation." (p.14) Through nature and its power, Edna, begins to find freedom in her soul and then returns to a life in the city where reside the conflicts that surround her.
Edna grew up on a Mississippi plantation, where life was simple, happy, and peaceful. The images of nature, which serve as a symbol for freedom of the soul, appear when she speaks of this existence. In the novel, she remembers a simpler life when she was a child, engulfed in nature and free:
"The hot wind beating in my face made me think – without any connection that I can trace – of a summer day in Kentucky, of a meadow that seemed as big as the ocean to the very little girl walking through the grass, which was higher than her waist. She threw out her arms as if swimming when she walked, beating the tall grass as one strikes out in the water." (p.17)
Chopin’s reference to swimming occurs many times in the novel, and through the ocean and her experiences swimming, she not only confronts nature, but she challenges and discovers her true self. The use of nature is especially significant as a memory in her childhood because it marks a time in her life when she was happy and free. This image of swimming returns to her when her soul is beginning to reopen, at Grand Isle.
When Edna finally learns to swim, she finds herself frightened, alone, overwhelmed, and surrounded in a vast expanse of water. Her experience swimming in the ocean for the first time parallels her discovery and immersion in the true nature of her soul: "As she swam she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself . . . A quick vision of death smote her soul, and for a second of time appalled and enfeebled her sense." (p.28) She is frightened by her own self-discovery – yet is enraptured by it. It is this contradiction and this confrontation with nature that is brings about Edna’s self-discovery and metamorphosis within the novel. It is more than love for Robert that drives her to be free from the restrictions of this society. Instead, it is her discovery of her own self that causes her to shun the confines of society. Edna’s "self-discovery" awakens her, and she is able to greet her own soul, a soul filled with passion and sexuality.
Topics Related to Meghan Reid
Jazz poetry, African-American poetry, The Awakening, Langston Hughes, Soul, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, Edna, Walking
Essays Related to Meghan Reid
Langston Hughes Langston Hughes Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. His father was James Nathaniel and his mother was Carrie Mercer Langston Hughes. His grandfather was Charles Langston, an Ohio abolitionist. As a young boy he lived in Buffalo, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, Lawrence, Kansas, Mexico City, Topeka, Kansas, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Kansas City, Kansas. In 1914 his parents divorced and he, his mother, and his stepfather moved to Lincoln, Illinois. In high school ba
Langston Hughes Langston Hughes Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri into an abolitionist family. He was the grandson of Charles Henry Langston. His brother was John Mercer Langston, who was the the first Black American to be elected to public office in 1855. Hughes attended Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio, but began writing poetry in the eighth grade, and was selected as Class Poet. His father didn\'t think he would be able to make a living as a writer. His father paid his tuition to Columbia U
Voices And Visions Voices And Visions The biographical film of Langston Hughes is both informative and entertaining. It approaches Hughes’s life with insightful observations from the people that personally knew him. The film goes into detail on his family background and early life before his poetic success, and continues through his life in Harlem, his literary achievements, and legacy. The film has interesting facts that were unknown to me previous to my viewing. For example, the historical relatives described i
Langston Hughes And Harlem Renaissance Langston Hughes And Harlem Renaissance The Harlem Renaissance brought about many great changes. It was a time for expressing the African-American culture. Many famous people began their writing or gained their recognition during this time. The Harlem Renaissance took place during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Many things came about during the Harlem Renaissance; things such as jazz and blues, poetry, dance, and musical theater. The African-American way of life became the thing. Many white people cam
Langston Hughes As Social Person Langston Hughes As Social Person Langston Hughes is considered by many readers to be the most significant black poet of the twentieth century. He is described as V...the beloved author of poems steeped in the richness of African American culture, poems that exude Hughess affection for black Americans across all divisions of region, class, and gender. (Rampersad 3) His writing was both depressing and uplifting at times. His poetry, spanning five decades from 1926 to 1967, reflected the changin
Langston Hughes Langston Hughes Langston Hughes was one of the first black men to express the spirit of blues and jazz into words. An African American Hughes became a well known poet, novelist, journalist, and playwright. Because his father emigrated to Mexico and his mother was often away, Hughes was brought up in Lawrence, Kansas, by his grandmother Mary Langston. Her second husband (Hughes\'s grandfather) was a fierce abolitionist. She helped Hughes to see the cause of social justice. As a lonely child Hugh
Langston Hughes Langston Hughes Hughes\' efforts to create a poetry that truly evoked the spirit of Black America involved a resolution of conflicts centering around the problem of identity (Smith 358). No African American poet, writer, and novelist has ever been appreciated by every ethnic society as much as Langston Hughes was. Critics argue that Hughes reached that level of prominence, because all his works reflected on his life\'s experience, whether they have been good or bad. He never wrote one single
Langston Hughes Langston Hughes Langston Hughes is often considered a voice of the African-American people and a prime example of the magnificence of the Harlem Renaissance. His writing does embody these titles, but the concept of Langston Hughes that portrays a black man\'s rise to poetic greatness from the depths of poverty and repression are largely exaggerated. America frequently confuses the ideas of segregation, suppression, and struggle associated with African-American history and imposes these ideas on
Rap History Rap History Rap music as a musical form began among the youth of South Bronx, New York in the mid 1970’s. Individuals such Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash were some of the early pioneers of this art form. Through their performances at clubs and promotion of the music, rap consistently gained in popularity throughout the rest of the 1970’s. The first commercial success of the rap song Rapper\'s Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang in 1979 helped bring rap music into the national spotlight. The 1980’
Beat Movement Beat Movement The Beat Movement in modern literature has become an important period in the history of literature and society in America. Incorporating influences such as jazz, art, literature, philosophy and religion, the beat writers created a new and prophetic vision of modern life and changed the way a generation of people sees the world. That generation is mow aging and its representative voices are becoming lost to eternity, but the message is alive and well. The Beats have forever alter