23 September 2008
Awakened at Sea
The sea, the sky, the sand. All of these are referenced and alluded to throughout Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Each is symbolic of different things, but they all correlate together to create a feeling of Edna’s attempted grasp for independence and her transcendence of society’s expectations of her as a Victorian Era woman. In order to bring the novel together, Chopin had to artistically align the three symbols in to one multiple times to give Edna’s awakening a sense of finality, unity, and- most importantly- realness.
The sea is symbolic of seduction, purity, cleansing, and the boundaries of life. Throughout the novel, Edna feels that “the voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude” (Chopin 154). The sea continually calls to her, from when she first swims out until her final swim on her own. This final swim is representative of an awakening in itself; a transcendence of Edna’s own being. When swimming out farther than she ever expect she’d be able to, Edna’s “…old terror flamed up for an instant, then sank again” (Chopin 155). This shows that, in spite of the fact that she is afraid, the sea calms her and enables her to carry on. It is said that the sea symbolizes a ‘journey across the boundaries of life’, a meaning that is clearly seen in The Awakening. Edna goes beyond the normal confines of society as well as her life in general.
The sky is representative of several things closely in alignment with the sea, but there are some differences. For example, the sky is symbolic of omnipotence and holiness, infinity, and immortality. This is ironic because of Edna’s garishly apparent mortality, which is made even more obvious by her suicide at the end of the novel. However, it can certainly be interpreted that Edna’s swim out to sea is juxtaposed to a “transcendental awakening”. The fact...