Word Count: 2082;#65279;In the novel, The Awakening, Kate Chopin tells the story of a young married woman,Edna Pontellier, who, while enjoying her summer holidays at a cottage on a beach with herfamily, meets a young man by the name of Robert Lebrun. Edna, who is not really in love withher husband, begins to have mixed feelings and, as a result, begins to realize who she truly is.
Edna feels that something is lacking in her life. The author uses the ocean to personify andsymbolize what is missing in Ednas life–the love of a man and freedom of the soul.
On several occasions Chopin uses the sea as a personification of Ednas longing for thelove of a man. Although Edna is married, she does not have the feelings for her husband whichcoincide with being in love. In one example, Chopin describes the sea: The voice of the sea isseductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for aspell in abysses of solitude, to lose itself in mazes of contemplation (13).
The sea calls to Edna:The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body inits soft , close embrace (13). Chopin is describing the sea as though it was a man with whomEdna is in love and for whom she feels a strong attraction, not just someone she can make loveto but someone she can loose herself in. Later, the young man, Robert Lebrun, who is stirring upall these feelings in Edna, asks her if she is going swimming; she answers him no and tells himshe is too tired. Chopin describes Ednas actions afterwards: Her glance wandered from hisface away toward the Gulf, whose sonorous murmur reached her like a loving but imperativeentreaty (12). Chopin is projecting Ednas feelings for Robert, whether Edna is conscious ofthese feelings or not, onto the sea because a part of Edna does want to go swimming with him.
Edna also has a strong need for freedom and Chopin, with respect to Ednas character,makes reference to the sea to express this need. On one occasion, Edna and Madame Ratignolle,her neighbour for the summer, are sunbathing on the beach. Madame asks Edna to where hermind is wandering. Edna tells her the ocean is bringing back a memory of a field in Kentuckywhich, as a child, she had run through with arms stretched out in the breeze as though swimmingin the ocean, a symbol of the freedom she felt as a small child, a freedom which has left her asshe has grown older. Edna exclaims, sometimes I feel this summer as if I were walkingthrough the green meadow again; idly, aimlessly unthinking and unguided (16). Edna isexpressing her desire to once again be able to do such things, to make decisions without reallyhaving to make any conscious choices, for her soul to have that freedom. After receiving lessons for some time, Edna gains a little personal freedom by learning toswim. Chopin goes on to describe the achievement: But that night she was like the littletottering, stumbling, clutching child, who of a sudden realizes its power, and walks for the firsttime alone, boldly and with over-confidence. She could have shouted for joy. She did shout forjoy, as with a sweeping stroke or two she lifted her body to the surface of the water (34). It isas though the sea is surrendering a little freedom to her by allowing her this victory. One day,Edna is crossing the bay with others on their way to church. Chopin describes Ednas feelings offreedom on the short voyage: Sailing across the bay to the Cheniere Caminada, Edna felt as ifshe were being borne away from some anchorage which had held her fast, whose chains hadbeen loosening, . . . leaving her free to drift whithersoever she chose to set her sails (34). Chopins description of the voyage once again paints a picture of Ednas longing to be free. Chopin uses the sea numerous times throughout the story to express the young Ednasfeelings. From giving it human qualities with its power to seduce, to speak to the soul and tohold her in a close embrace, Chopin quite effectively projects Ednas growing feelings forRobert. Chopin also portrays Ednas longing for freedom by using the ocean as a trigger for thisemotion. Ednas memory of the field in Kentucky while sunbathing on the beach, the feelings ofchains loosening during her short voyage across the Gulf and her learning to swim, all paint apicture of her need, all expressed with the symbolic use of the sea.
Works CitedChopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1993.
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