Life Death and Immortality


The stark contrast of Edna to her society and the differentiating images depicted in Thomas Cole’s painting, Life, Death, and Immortality prove that the key element used in both works is juxtaposition. Cole’s painting provides three contrasting, symbolic human images that represent the various stages of life; the young white figure represents innocence and immortality, the middle-aged female dressed in red displays growth and life, and finally the last grim figure holding an hourglass depicts death. Not only are these figures juxtaposed against one another to show the process of life and potentially loss of innocence, but two areas of the sky are also differentiated in that the area hanging over death seems to give a sense of gloom, while the lighter and potentially more hopeful skies lie above the head of the figure representing immortality and innocence.  This juxtaposition can be correlated to the final scene in The Awakening when Edna metaphorically becomes the dark grim figure in Cole’s painting and reaches death. Throughout the story Edna is juxtaposed against society for not conforming to the norms of a twentieth century housewife because she does not want to be a mere possession of Mr. Pontelier. This leads her to be driven from her husband into the arms of Robert Lebrun where she slowly loses her innocence. Eventually this loss of innocence and pressure of being in contrast with the rest of her society leads her to feel the pressure of her own gloom, and the sense of time running out causes her decision to put and end to her own time table of life.

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