To better display the setting of Edna’s death, Chopin writes “[t]he touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” (Chopin 176). Throughout the novel, the sea is used as a motif of freedom, as Edna first realizes her potential while overcoming her fear of swimming, and often finds respite from the demands of her husband while near its waters. By drowning herself, Edna is then submitting completely to the freedom and power granted to her in the sea. The fact that she is in the sea when she dies suggests that she does not only kill herself because of her disappointment about Robert’s abandonment, but also because it is the only means by which she may seize her freedom. As she walks down to the beach, she thinks, as Adele Ratignolle had urged, of her children: they “appeared before her like antagonists wh...
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... or to the water. When Edna and the bird fall into the water, to die at sea, they are free, and do not have to fly against the wind of others’ expectations any longer. It is in this way that Edna’s suicide carries a message about the nature of life in Chopin’s society.
When The Awakening was published, it was completely unthinkable for anyone, especially a woman, to commit suicide. For Edna to do so, abandoning the holdings of her Catholic faith, the advice of her closest friend, the expectations for her gender, and her hope of finding happiness, is itself an act of rebellion; its implications form a vital part of Chopin’s message. Edna’s death scene, as a desperate leap towards freedom, and a statement about the truth of Edna’s existence, forces the reader to understand the restrictive power of the expectations for women, and the reality of their existence.
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