6 November 2014 La mer In literacy, the sea seems to be used as a symbol lots of times. This has proven to be the case, in
The Awakening by Kate Chopin, where the author used the sea as a symbol it was referred to at the beginning, when the awakening for Edna first started; it was also the final destination for
Edna. The story is rich in description and uses a lot of symbolism. The sea symbolizes both the birth and death of the ideas of freedom, liberalism, and romanticism; the sea interestingly illustrates the emotions flowing deep within Edna, to foreshadow the story and to provoke thoughts, both hers and ours. Edna’s “awakening” originates from “La mer”, in the French speaking part of New Orleans. The story is set up on an island resort, which itself is surrounded by seas. The author did not make special mention of it, but we can see the using of the sea to symbolize that Edna is “trapped” in the traditional society, and have no “escape”. The sea was also the place she first acquainted
Robert, the man she eventually falls in love with later on in the text. With this love, comes the
“awakening”, where the idea of freedom and liberalism starts to flourish in her mind. She thought about the men she fell in love with near the beach, too. From a “sadeyed cavalry officer
who visited her father in Kentucky”, to a “young gentleman who visited a lady on a neighboring plantation”, and to a “great tragedian”.(62) These thoughts have drifted her further, towards the idea of being free of boundaries set by societies, which are, be a ‘motherwoman’, be loyal to her husband, etc. Chopin uses the sea as a continuing reference to infinite temptation and passion for freedom.she referred to the sea a couple of times early on in the novel to solidify our assumption of it being an important metaphor. “The voice of sea is seductive” and “speaks to the soul” (57) personify the sea and gave it a character and illustration. Another example of the sea being “alive” is shown through “...the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous.” (54) After Edna left the Grand Isle, the metaphorical idea of the ‘sea’ passed on to Robert and Mademoiselle Reisz. The idea of romanticism, which appeared in the book in the form of freedom and liberalism, is ubiquitous on the two “guiding” characters of Edna, Robert and Mademoiselle Reisz. Although
Robert is away in Mexico throughout the majority of the story, he still plays an important role in
Edna’s awakening, as she falls in love with him: “I shall proceed to fall in love with him.” (136)
This deep affection is also seen when she has an affair with Arobin, she was concerned about
‘cheating’ on Robert, not her husband: “The thought was passing vaguely through her mind,
“what would he think?” She did not mean her husband; she was thinking of Robert Lebrun”
(132). Edna sees Robert as a sign for passion and love that she has been missing since she married her husband, therefore inspired by him that, she doesn’t have to live this way.
Mademoiselle Reisz was that secondary push that facilitated Edna’s Awakening. She is an older
woman who lives a single life, while unpopular in the society because of her unconventional lifestyle, appears to be free and happy. To Edna, Mademoiselle Reisz represents the type of woman that Edna could have become when she gets older, if she gets independant from her duties as a wife and mother. The freedom she represents fascinates her living independently, having no worries and plays the piano so well: “The very first chords which Mademoiselle Reisz struck upon the piano sent a keen tremor down Mrs.