The Awakening Essay, Research Paper
In the book The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, Edna Pontellier is an unhappy, married, mother who finds an outlet from her life through a welcoming ocean.
“A certain ungovernable dread hung about her when in water, unless there was a hand nearby that might reach out and reassure her.”(p.27) Edna is frightened by the ocean and very overwhelmed by its massive strength. Then she learns to swim and becomes fascinated by what was once an intimidator. “How easy it is!” It is nothing.”(p.27) Edna is very pleased with this newfound joy; Edna is ecstatic over conquering her fear. “She could have shouted for joy, she did shout for joy.”(p.27) Edna feels happy with herself for the first time in many years. “She felt like some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world it had never known.”(p.115)
Edna begins swimming regularly and thoroughly enjoys it. “Edna plunged and swam about with an abandon thrilled and invigorated her.”(p.49) “She remained a long time in the water.”(p.49) Swimming, for Edna, provides a much needed recess from her home life and the typical role of a woman and a wife in the 19th century. “I have a notion to go down to the beach and take a good wash and even a little swim,” “before dinner? The water is too cold. Don’t think of it.” “Well I might go down and try-dip my toes in.”(p.114)
Edna is growing very fond of the ocean and so adorns her swims. No one will keep her from this new pleasure that brings such satisfaction to her life. Edna feels free for the first time since her childhood. She loves so much this mysterious new being that is so wonderful to her. The ocean proves to be a place where she can transcend her life into the life of who she wants to be. “The touch of the sea is sensuous unfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.”(p.115) Edna feels closer to the sea than anyone she has ever known. “She thought of Leonce and the children. They were a part of her life, but they need not have thought they could posses her.”(p.116)
Edna is slowly beginning to awaken from the marriage and life that has held her comatose for so long. She realizes why she is unhappy and looks to the sea for commiseration and answers, but finds none. Edna can only continue her love affair with the ocean and appreciate her newly discovered soul mate. “The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wonder in abysses of solitude. All along the white beach, up and down, there was no living thing in sight.”(p.115) Edna feels as though she is the only one to have discovered the ocean. In her own world she feels free to swim, to walk on the beach unclothed, free to express. “She was there beside the sea, absolutely alone, she cast the unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and for the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her.”(p.115) Edna feels secure around the water, a sense of security that she lacks in all her other relationships. “As she swims she seems to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself.”(p.28) Edna wants to experience everything the ocean can offer her and wants to experience a sense of self-accomplishment. “Exhaustion was pressing upon and over possessing her. Good-bye, because, I love you.”(p.116) “He did not know; he did not understand. He would never understand. Perhaps Doctor mandelet would have understood if she had seen him-but it was too late; the shore was far behind her, and her strength was gone.”(p.116) “She looked into the distance, and old terror flamed up for an instant, then sank again.”(p.116)
Edna has found so much happiness in the ocean that she is unwilling to release it. The more pleasure she receives from the sea, the less she receives from Leonce and the children and her ‘other life.’ She only desires freedom, a chance to be herself and live her life and not someone else’s ideal life for her. Edna, feeling that her marriage and the rest of her life are going downhill, realizes that there is not another established role for women to play. Upon her discovery of this, she decides to let her love take her and is then engulfed into a sea of dreams.