Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening is based on the inner journey of the central character
Edna Pontellier. Edna Pontellier is presented by Chopin as a woman whose beliefs regarding motherhood and womanhood happen to be contrary to the prevalent social conventions and norms. The plot unravels the inner journey of Edna as she evolves from being a woman confined and limited by social expectations to an individual who is intimately in touch with her most basic desires and aspirations. Thereby the passage under consideration marks the end of Edna’s tour of self discovery, as she comes back to the very same Grand Isle resort where she began her journey, and illustrates the unexpected climax of Edna’s tragic journey in a figurative language touching upon multiple aspects of her journey.
The thing that needs to be noticed is that the given passage occurs at a very important moment in the novel, when the plot of the novel has come full circle. The readers, who had accompanied Edna on her sad and lonely journey, finally find her totally in touch with those aspects of her personality, which she had long been suppressing under the claims of motherhood and wifely obligations. The passage does full justice to this moment by voicing the emotional intensity, sense of ambiguity and vagueness of beliefs faced by Edna. This represents a moment marked by a subtle kind of fatal decisiveness as “Edna did not look back (Chopin 160)”, contrary to the “feeling of exultation (Chopin 36)” that gripped her at a similar moment in her past.
It does need to be mentioned that the sense of realization that Edna has at this juncture in her life stands contrary to any possibility for social recognition and acceptance.
Thereby the dilemma faced by Edna at this moment...
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... and liberating.
The passage time and again touches upon the images and ideas linked to Edna’s past when “as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself (Chopin 89)”, to her present state when she is pushing herself into the deep “thinking of the bluegrass meadow that she had traversed when a little child (Chopin 160)”, bringing out the two realities that marked Edna’s life, and the final falling of this sense of duality in a moment of intense self realization. The popping up of varied references like “Mademoiselle Reisz” or “Doctor
Mandelet” having historical and cultural implications in the plot enhances the overall scope of the passage.
Chopin not only masterfully uses this passage to bring out the importance of the moment it happens to mark, but uses a very figurative and symbolic language to leave its overall interpretation open and inconclusive.