he focus of this paper will be to examine Kate Chopin’s The Awakening chapter ten, specifically paragraphs five to ten. Throughout The Awakening Edna is constantly fighting with the expectations of society and her desire to be a free woman. As a woman, Edna is expected to be the perfect wife and mother, however she longs to embrace and free her creative self. Because of this battle within herself she shows many of the characteristics of depression. The passage mentioned above is very symbolic of Edna’s fight to overcome her mental illness. The thesis of this paper is that Edna’s yearning to swim is a metaphor for her longing to overcome depression, patriarchal expectations and societal constraints. By taking an in-depth look into the author’s word choice, a parallel can be found between learning to swim and the ability to overcome the depression within.
The water mentioned in the passage is symbolic of Edna’s depression, and the fact that she had been trying to learn how to swim shows that she is trying to conquer it. Edna’s inability to swim shows that she was struggling to defeat her depression, however she was actively trying to find help by asking others for assistance. Edna describes that “A certain ungovernable dread hung about her when in the water” (Chopin 73), this shows her fear of succumbing to the depression but also her anxiety to rise above it. By giving in to the depression Edna would accept society’s expectation of her, she would have to become the perfect mother and wife at any cost. Meanwhile, in order for her to rise out of the depression she would have to give in to her desire to be free of these expectations.
Before Edna was able to swim, she describes herself as a “tottering, stumbling, clutching child”(Chopin 73) and “splashing about like a baby!”(Chopin 74). She feels as if her depression is causing her to be helpless, unsure and unstable. The idea that she was struggling represents her determination to fight past the depression. A child is considered to be dependent, and this represents Edna’s dependence on society to tell her how she should live. The symbol of a child also represents maternity, and society dictates that Edna should be a mother and wife before anything else. A child also represents innocence, and before Edna sees a way to through the depression she is still innocent in the eyes of society.
While a child was a symbol of innocence, in comparison, the night time and moon are often symbols of mischief. The night time was often a time when women had no more responsibilities and were finally able to do something for themselves. This is very representative of Edna’s desire to be free from the constraints that society has placed on her. The idea of being free from her household duties and to finally be able to pamper and express herself. The moon is also often a symbol of women, having ties with the menstrual cycle. In observing the moon, Edna is finally able to find her true self and her true desires....