The Awakening | Symbol 2 | 60second Recap®

The Awakening | Symbol 2 | 60second Recap®
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If Kate Chopin had been a hack, she might
have titled her novel The Rebirth. Instead, she came up with the lovely The Awakening
and created a symbol to represent (and reinforce) the main character’s rebirth. We’ll talk about what it is right after the
break. The summer that Edna falls in love with Robert
and begins to embrace a more expansive version of her identity, is also the summer she learns
to swim in the ocean off Grand Isle. The ocean seems to connect her with something
primitive—some part of herself that she didn’t know existed. And that’s why, in The Awakening, the sea
is a symbol of rebirth. Now, Chopin clues you into this symbolism
even before Edna’s swimming success. Just think of the words she uses to describe the
sea at the beginning of Chapter Six: “The touch of the sea is sensuous,” she wrote,
“enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” So the sea is womb-like. It’s feminine and
mothering. And it’s not coincidental, then, that Edna’s ability to swim emerges just as
she’s being symbolically reborn. The sea awakens something in her, and baptizes
her—like a newborn child—in her newfound identity. Even in the end, when the ocean takes Edna’s
life, you get the feeling that Edna is losing herself in a sea of possibility. Though it’s up to you whether that sea is
a great void, or a space pregnant with infinite potential.

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