When reading the novel from a psychoanalytic perspective, the sea plays an important role in the ‘awakening’ of Edna Pontellier. There is a strong relationship between Edna and the sea from the beginning of the novel to the end. The sea represents Edna’s desire to find her own freedom and identity. In the beginning of the novel, Edna’s expression of the sea reflects her awareness of her own identity. “Her glance wandered from his face away toward the Gulf, whose sonorous murmur reached her like a loving but imperative entreaty.
This passage explains that the voice of the sea is unclear but strong. Edna’s feelings toward the presence of the sea are also used to describe the despair she feels toward her family life. “The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in the abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.
Because the sea is capable of seducing both “the soul” and “the body” at the same time shows how complete its power is. Also, the words being used to describe the sea, such as “seductive”, “murmuring”, “soft”, and “sensuous” is decidedly feminine. When Edna learns how to swim, she gets a sense of freedom and the inner power she has. She recalls, “A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul. She wanted to swim out far, where no woman had swum before. Edna is finally feeling power that she previously never felt before. Edna wants to live for herself and be happy, instead of pleasing everybody else.
The sea allows Edna the opportunity to look at herself and claim her own identity. She realizes the no one can possess her but herself. “She turned her face seaward to gather in an expression of space and solitude. As she swam, she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself. ” At the end of the novel Edna realizes that only she can possess herself. She has proven to be strong and witty. “She went on and on. She remembered the night she swam far out, and recalled the terror that seized her at the fear of being unable to regain the shore. She did not look back now, but went on and on, thinking of the blue-grass meadow that she had traversed when a little child, believing that it had no beginning and no end “. By returning to the sea, Edna looks back to being that fearless little girl, who is not afraid.