The Influence of the Sea in The Awakening Essay

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The Influence of the Sea in The Awakening

In Kate Chopin's novel, The Awakening, the female protagonist, Edna Pontellier, learns about the world. Unfortunately for Edna, the world is defined in terms of love and marriage. This female awakening is really "an awakening to limitations" (Bloom 43). If read as a suicide, then Edna’s last swim is a consequence of her awakening to the limitations of her femaleness in a male-dominant society. But on a metaphysical level, The Awakening's final scene can be seen as Edna's ultimate gesture in trying to grasp the essence of her being. This essay will show that Edna's spiritual journey both begins and ends in the sea..

In the early chapters, Edna is referred to only as Mrs.
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The sea, in this case, symbolizes samsara, the cyclical rebirths of existence, and is a product of ignorance and the failure to recognize the impermanent nature of things. On the other shore lies another rebirth.

And it is by the sea that Kate Chopin first pulls Edna out from the narrative and gives her an ego by referring to her by her given name and, after walking through a sea of grass, recounts Edna's previous love interests—the cavalry officer, a young gentleman, and the tragedian—attachments of previous reincarnations. In other words, Edna's self is born here by "inward contemplation", with the aid of the "seductive odor" and "sonorous murmur" of the sea and its "loving but imperative entreaty" (Chopin 56-7). The objects of her previous attachments were men, or perhaps her desire for the men of her past. In Edna's present lifetime on Grand Isle, her attachment is to Robert Lebrun, who draws Edna's ego to its fullest from Chopin's narrative and makes Edna's suffering more intense and tangible.

Shortly after the reader meets Robert Lebrun and realizes that Edna Pontellier is strangely drawn to the young man (Chopin 56)—the seed of Edna's attachment is thus planted—Chopin prepares a series of
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