19th Century American Women's Literature- Symbolic Meanings in Kate Chopin's The Awakening


Jessie Mizic

Date of Award

Spring 2015

Author Requested Restriction

Open Access (no embargo, no restriction)

Work Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Andrea Modarres

Second Advisor

Natalie Jolly


Using Semiotics and Feminist Literary Theory reveals how symbols such as birds and wings, water and sea develop a theme of solitude in American author Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening published in 1899. This imagery critiques what has been called the Cult of True Womanhood in a subtle way. The research design of my thesis and the methodologies that are utilized create a truly a multi-faceted approach to analyzing literature. Through a close reading, I provide a detailed literary analysis of the novel The Awakening. Using a feminist lens and Elaine Showalter’s New Feminist Literary Criticism, I provide an interpretative analysis of the key themes and symbols within this novel and their importance as a cultural critique of the dominant ideologies of American society of the 1850s. My research is a qualitative endeavor with a social 4 constructivist flair. I call on Wolfgang Iser’s Reader Response Theory to show the role of the reader as an interpretive strategy that is socio-historically centered. Finally I use the study of semiotics and signs and symbols to highlight any repeating motifs and their meanings as a tool is often utilized in conducting a literary analysis.