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Abby Broadhurst

AP Literature
Mrs. Flather
November 5, 2013

The Awakening Analysis

Passage: The water of the Gulf stretched out before her, gleaming with the million lights of the sun. The
voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to
wander in abysses of solitude. All along the white beach, up and down, there was no living thing in sight.
A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to
the water” (151-152).

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening highlights Edna Pontellier’s transformation as she comes to reject

societal conventions and embody her journey of self-discovery and fulfillment. Although she succeeds in

defying social Creole expectations, this rejection of the norm results in Edna’s isolation as she finds

herself separate, an outcast. Eventually revealing her forbidden love to Robert Lebrun, Edna expects him

to embrace her newfound individuality and sense of self and is consequently shocked when she finds that

he too is trapped by Creole formalities and is unwilling, or perhaps unable, to defy societal expectations

along with her. This tragic outcome prompts Edna to feel that she is truly alone in the world and it is this

thought which motivates Edna’s suicide. Chopin introduces the suicidal scene with hyperbole, stating

that “the water of the Gulf stretched out before her, gleaming with the million lights of the sun” (151).

The endless expanse of water seems to represent the seemingly endless possibilities that Edna saw for

herself in the midst of her “awakening,” prior to her harsh acknowledgement of the extent to which her

true character is repressed by society. The positive image is ironic in the context of the situation;

however, it implies that Edna sees death as her true liberation. Personification is then incorporated in

order to highlight the seductive nature of the sea as it seemingly calls to Edna, “never ceasing,

whispering, clamoring” (152). The personification of the sea and its enticing image represent Edna’s

desire for self-empowerment as it is this sense of independence that Edna truly craves. Having failed to

find true satisfaction in life, she now searches for it in death, drawn to the sea which provided her with her

first intimation of self-confidence. Her sense of solitude and isolation is evident in the statement that the

sea was “inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude” and that there was no living thing “along the
white beach” (152). The incorporation of the word “abysses” in the context of Edna’s solitude highlights

the extent to which she finds herself alone and the pure connotation of the “white beach” suggests the idea

of rebirth. Once again, for Edna, suicide is the absolute liberation from restrictions and expectations and

indeed is a sort of rebirth for her as it enables her to accept herself and her newfound identity.

Concluding this passage, Chopin mentions the flight of “a bird with a broken wing” who struggles to fly,

slowly falling towards the water (152). Throughout the novel, birds are symbolic of women’s

entrapment during the Victorian era, as is evident in the life of Edna Pontellier. Therefore, the simple

mention of the bird and its impending doom signifies Edna’s struggle and her failure to find in life what

she hopes to find in death: true liberation and fulfillment.