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Voice of the Sea

Many different symbols were utilized in Kate Chopin's The Awakening to illustrate the underlying themes and internal conflict of the characters. One constant and re-emerging symbol is the sea. The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace (25). In the novel, the ocean symbolizes Edna's "awakening" to a life filled with freedom and independence.On a hot summer evening Robert and Edna go bathing. Although Edna does not wish to go and initially declines his offer, something inside is compelling her to go down to the water. It is there in the seductive ocean that Edna's awakening begins. A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly within her [she] was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her (25). That warm ocean environment is in direct contrast to the responsibilities and rules of the cold, hard city. And it is there in that relaxed and forgiving atmosphere that Edna can explore her new found freedoms. While relaxing on the beach with Mrs. Ratignolle, the sight of the endless ocean brings back memories from Edna's childhood. She suddenly recalls a summer day in Kentucky and "a meadow that seemed as big as the ocean to the very little girland I felt as if I must walk on forever without coming to the end of it. I don't remember whether I was frightened or pleased" (30). A strong connection between the Kentucky meadow, and the ocean before her, links her present experience to her childhood. This rebirth takes her back to a time of innocence and curiosity that allows her to explore life through new eyes. Edna is filled with swelling emotions...

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