Menu Close

The Awakening

What figurative language does Chopin use to describe the sea in Chapter 6 of The Awakening, and what is the effect of this description?

What is the significance of the memory Edna Pontellier shares with Madame Ratignolle in Chapter 7 of The Awakening?

How is the trip to the Cheniere in Chapter 12 a metaphor for Edna Pontellier’s life journey in The Awakening?

How does this novel frame the notions of freedom and responsibility?


  1. Alyssa Byrd

    1. The sea is described as having a voice. It is “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.” This description suggests the sea instills greater awareness in those who search it. To Edna, the sea offers an awakening to greater individuality. Chopin also thinks of the sea as a significant other: “The voice of the sea is seductive.” Near the end the sea gains a body as well as a voice, we know this because the author says: “The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” It offers Edna an awakening to greater sensuality.

    2. In Chapter 7 Edna shares a childhood memory of walking through “a meadow that seemed as big as the ocean” and making swimming motions with her arms as she made her way through the grass, “which was higher than her waist.” She says she “could see only the stretch of green” directly in front of her, and she “must walk on forever, without coming to the end.” This memory comes to her because it is similar to how she feels about learning to swim. The image of continuing forward “without coming to an end” as the grass comes up over her waist is similar to the final image of the novel, in which Edna wades, then swims, out to sea without stopping.

    3. Edna sets sail with Robert Lebrun for the Cheniere, and as they sail across the water Edna feels “as if she were being borne away from some anchorage which had held her fast, whose chains had been loosening had snapped.” Setting out across the water feels like a symbolic action to her as if she were leaving her old life behind and heading into something new. She feels “free to drift whithersoever she chose to set her sails,”. She and Robert talk about a fantasy future together, as if her husband and children do not exist. Sailing away from Grand Isle represents Edna’s emotional journey away from her old self and its trappings namely her children and her husband. The trip shows she desires instead of a future with Robert.

    4. Symbols of freedom and responsibility in The Awakening include caged birds which serve as reminders of Edna’s entrapment and also of the entrapment of women in general. Like the birds, the women’s movements are limited, by society and their responsibilities, and they are unable to communicate with the world around them. The novel’s “winged” women may only use their wings to protect and shield, never to fly.

  2. Alexis Henry

    In Chapter 6 of The Awakening Chopin uses alliteration and personification to describe and talk about the sea. Chopin writes “The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering clamoring, murmuring, inviting 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 in sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” (The Awakening,57) When describing the sea Chopin uses alliteration by continuously using the letter “s” so that as you read the sentences you start making the “whooshing” type noises the ocean makes as the waves crash on the sea. Chopin also uses personification while describing the sea by saying “The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” By saying this she makes it seem as though the sea is a person who is able to sorta of hug .

    3) In chapter 12 Edna Pontellier seems to be set free from her life at home when she is heading to Cheniere. Edna felt that she was “being borne away from some ancharidge.”(pg 81). She had felt as though something was holding her back at home but with her heading to Cheriere Edna felt that “the mystic spirit was abroad.”(pg 81). This mystic spirit that she feld abroad the boat helped her to feel “free to drift whithersoever”(pg 81). The whole trip to Cheriere is a metaphor for Edna’s journey in the novel because of the way Chopin explains how she felt trapped at home and now her taking this trip to Cheriere she felt free and like it was a fresh start of something new.

    4) In the novel the sea is a symbolism to freedom. Throughout the novel Chopin constantly talks about the sea. The sea invites “the soul to wander” (pg 57) which means that your soul is almost like set free when you’re in the sea. “The voice of the sea speaks to the soul” meaning that the sea is calling you to that freedom. Edna even felt as though when she was at sea her “chains had been loosening” (pg 81) so she was being set free from whatever was holding her back home. “She did not look back now, but went on and on.” (pg 176) Edna was going deeper and deeper into the sea and while doing so she was getting further and further away from everything that held her down. She was swimming to her freedom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *