Importance of Water in The Awakening
Kate Chopin's The Awakening begins set in Grande Isle which is the summer get-away for a few families of New Orleans "upper-class". It is a community of cottages owned by the Lebrun family. Edna Pontellier and her husband Leonce summer there with there two children. This is the setting where Edna also develops a close relationship with Robert Lebrun. He is one of Madame Lebrun's sons who helps her run the cottages for the Pontellier's and the Ratingnolle's. The book begins and ends with Edna and her attraction to the water. Throughout the story water plays a symbolic part in the unfolding of Edna and her relationship to Robert and also her awakening to a new outlook on life along with an independence that takes her away from her family and the socially constraining life in which she no longer can see herself a part of.
Edna and Robert are at the beach enjoying each others company at first. They quickly return to the cottage where Leonce is and he talks to them. They have had a good time down by the water and Leonce, being the proper business like man that he is does not understand why Robert would rather spend his time chatting with his wife than attending to other things. It is obvious to the reader that Edna and Robert have a connection and are amused with what the other has to say. Leonce shrugs this off as nothing and leaves for the hotel where many of the men chat and drink in the evenings. Edna and Robert talk some more and eventually part. These are the first signs of something special between them.
Robert often spends his time chatting with Edna and Madame Ratingnolle. Adele Ratingnolle is a lovely woman who Edna and Robert both adore for her beauty and portrait of womanhood. They are chatting and talking of Edna's painting outside of Adele's cottage. Edna is very passionate and critical of her painting. After Adele has a fainting spell from her long day and retires inside Robert invites Edna to join him on the beach to bathe in the heat. Edna looks toward the water and feels a draw to it. The water is a source of strength for Edna she follows Robert down to the welcoming Gulf. Edna can not understand why she wants to go with Robert down to the water nut she feels drawn and the conflicting impulses which would steer her away from the proposal seem to disappear. "Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to understand her position in the universe as a human being. Edna, up until now, had been going through the motions of being a wife, mother and woman in the society in which she has lived. The ocean to Edna is a place where she feels comfort and although she does not fully understand why she is drawn to it, she goes. She likes the way the water feels when she enters it with Robert. It is a new feeling for her.
Edna also finds comfort in spending time with Adele whom she adores. They spend some time together on the beach to escape Robert one time and...