Edna and Conformity in Chopin’s The Awakening
The passage of The Awakening which truly marks Edna Pontellier’s new manner of thought regarding her life revolves around her remembrance of a day of her childhood in Kentucky. She describes the scene to Madame Ratigonelle as the two women sit on the beach one summer day. The passage opens with a description of the sea and the sky on that particular day. This day and its components are expressed in lethargic terms such as “idly” and “motionless” and suggested a scene of calm sleep. Such a depiction establishes an image of serenity and tranquility, in other words the calm before the storm which derives from Edna’s “awakening.”
As the passage continues Madame Ratigonelle asks Edna “of whom- of what are you thinking?” It is of interest to point out that she initially inquires “of whom” as if to impose her knowledge on Edna that she believes Edna may be thinking of a particular person such as Robert. Edna answers “Nothing,” but then catches herself in an answer that comes from simple habit and decides to retrace her thoughts. She remembers a day in Kentucky in which she was running across a meadow of high grass and makes the correlation between the grass and the sea. The description that provides of the “stretch of green” as a child is reminiscent of Edna’s final walk through the sea at the end of the novel. In both instances she felt as if she “must walk on forever, without coming to an end of it.” Again in both cases she appears to be neither “frightened” nor “pleased,” but merely content. The past for Edna is represented by the grass or the land, the present by the sea, and with the novel’s conclusion and Edna’s previous religious conviction of some sort her future may be occupied by the sky.
As a child she...