The Awakening is a story full of symbolism and imagery that can have many different meanings to the many who have read it. I have read several different theories on Kate Chopin’s meaning and though some are vastly different, they all seem to make sense. It has been said that Kate Chopin might have been ambiguous just for this reason. At some point, almost everyone struggles with knowing or not knowing their purpose in life, and therefore it seems, that on some level, most who read the story about Edna Pontellier can relate to her in some way. I believe that those who have theorized about this story, have done so based upon their own struggles with the same issue. To me, life is all about self discovery and what one does upon their self discovery. Each time that I read this story, I can feel the pain and the turmoil that Edna experiences before and after her awakening.
The ocean is the center and foundation of this story. The ocean is also part of the scenery and the background, without the ocean, there would be no story. Not only is the ocean the center and the foundation, it is also a symbol of many things in this story. To me, the ocean in this story takes on human characteristics in that to me, it symbolizes a seducer or seductress. The ocean also becomes an escape from reality and symbolizes life itself. The ocean is important because it is what helps bring Edna into her awakening and that is good, in the sense that it helps Edna into finding herself. However, the ocean is evil in that it is responsible for Edna’s demise.
I believe that in the beginning of this story, Edna has not yet discovered who she is or what she really wants out of life. Edna has come to the Grand Isle as a dutiful wife and mother who grew up in an oppressive, unloving and un-nurturing home without her mother. Edna’s marriage is not a loving one, neither she, nor her husband have an emotional connection to each other. Edna goes about her life as a mother and wife in a mechanical fashion, she doesn’t have the mind for it and it’s obvious that her current position where she wants to be although at first she doesn’t see it yet. Edna most likely has never experienced any sort of love or connection with anyone. She doesn’t seem to think very highly about her husband, father, or sisters. Her love for her children is flighty at best. It’s as if she’s been locked in a cage most of her life and has received very little attention leaving her love starved and lonely. I think that she is probably too ripe for her awakening by the time that it happens, which is why her awakening becomes so tumultuous for her. It’s as if she’s been in her cage so long, that once she is released, the results are almost too much to bear.
Edna’s awakening begins with the ocean and I feel that the way Kate Chopin describes the ocean in the beginning of the and throughout the story makes the ocean seem like a seducer or seductress, enticing Edna and awakening her imagination,...