Unlike María Eugenia, Edna in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening chooses not to fill her family’s expectations. As she takes her final steps into the sea she thinks to herself: “they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul” (655). Edna treasures her autonomy and chooses death over familial subjugation. However her transformational journey, alluded to by the title of the novel leads to more than the rejection of her self-sacrificing familial roles as wife and mother and her death.
We first meet Edna on her way back from a swim with Robert Lebrun, as Chopin begins to establish Edna’s burgeoning transformation in the context of her relationship with Robert and to the sea. While Robert and Edna’s relationship develops, Edna becomes increasingly dissatisfied with her marriage to Léonce Pontellier and her traditional roles as wife and mother to her two children, Rauol and Etienne. Edna learns to swim, takes up painting, befriends Madame Reisz, an eccentric old woman that plays the piano, and moves into her own house. After Robert leaves for Mexico, she engages in an affair with Alceé Arobin, until Robert returns and they affirm their love for one another. However, Robert, afraid of the social repercussions of their affair, leaves town. As a result of losing Robert, failing to find fulfillment in her life without a man, and failing to reconcile her roles as a good and faithful wife and mother while becoming an artist and falling in love, Edna commits suicide by drowning herself in the sea.
The sea, or green-world token is present throughout the novel as Edna engages in her innermost thoughts and her relationship with Robert, the green-world lover. Although ...
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...pport of Mr. Pontellier, her children, Madame Ratignolle, Robert, Madame Reisz, and her father. While Edna sees support for herself in these roles the way the other characters see them, she does not believe that she has their support for herself as an individual, apart from these roles, or as a person defining these roles for herself. As she takes her final walk down to the beach, the sea continues to call to her soul: “The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude” (654). The sea has helped Edna see into her innermost being and the transformational journey has helped her realize that she wants to fulfill her roles in life as an autonomous individual. But because Edna feels that she cannot achieve her goals, she succumbs to that which is closest to her innermost being, the sea.
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