Isle has a summer resort where the wealthy French Creoles of New
Orleans like to spend their summer vacation.
Madame Lebrun rents cottages and L'once and Edna, a wealthy New
Orlean's couple, are spending their first vacation there. Mme. Lebrun
has two pet birds, a parrot and a mockingbird. The latter sings
persistently, while the parrot talks in three languages, English,
French and a third unknown language.
L'once, sitting on the porch of his cottage and trying to read the
paper, is annoyed at the noise from the birds and leaves the veranda
to go inside for some peace.
one of the adjacent cottages, a lady dressed in black walks to and
fro with her rosary beads. Close by, L'once's two sons who are aged
4 and 5, play with their colored nurse.
Edna Pontellier, L'once's wife, is coming back from the beach in
the company of Robert Lebrun, the guesthouse proprietor's son.
L'once notices that his wife's skin looks very red and he comments
that she showed poor judgement for swimming during the heat of the
After a while, Leonce decides to go to the Hotel to play billiards.
He invies Robert to join him but he declines the invitation. Leonce
the novel, Kate Chopin uses a lot of symbolism to express her points.
Bearing in mind that this novel deals with the oppression of women
in the Victorian era, much of the symbolism will relate to this
topic and our heroine's awakening.
The most effective symbolism is that of the birds at the beginning
of the story. Looking at the description of the birds, that are
caged, we can assume that they symbolize the caged women in society.
The handsome parrot represents Edna, and we note that this bird
speaks two languages, French and English, that everyone understands,
but the third language is obscure. This symbolizes L'once's lack
of understanding of his wife's needs.
The mockingbird represents Mlle. Reisz whom we will meet later on
in the novel. She is a pianist of some renown, prefers to remain
single and defies society with her self-sufficiency. She attracts
criticism and envy from both men and women.
The first words that are uttered in Chapter 1 come from the parrot
when it says, "Allez-vous en! Allez-vous en! Sapristi!" which means,
"Get out! Get out! Damn it!" This is a forshadowing of what is to
come later on in the story.
In this Chapter there is also the first appearance of the woman
in black, a widow, depicted as a solitary person, fingering her
rosary beads in order to obtain some comfort from her solitude.
She is now precluded from all forms of pleasure, since becoming
We are already aware of L'once's attitude towards his wife. He is
not concerned about Robert's attentive behavior. This is acceptable
in the Creole society. He is more concerned about the fact that
Edna has a sunburn and may be "damaged" like any other piece of