The Awakening

How is the "adventure in the water" and Lebrun's interest in married women suggestive?

Chapters 1-5

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Edna's awakening occurs in the ocean, which is personified as having a seductive voice and an enveloping embrace. Water often has a symbolic meaning in literature: the baptism of Jesus and John (as well as numerous other people) occurred in the Jordan River, and Venus/Aphrodite emerged, fully-formed, from the ocean. Similarly, Edna undergoes a spiritual rebirth in the ocean; she emerges with a new wisdom and an enhanced perspective that will leave her changed forever. However, since the ocean is also described in such sensuous terms, we can expect that Edna's awakening will not be purely intellectual, but also sexual. The ocean is seducing her into new knowledge that she will later associate with the summer heat, the lapping waves, and Robert's company.

Robert's seeming attraction for married women alludes to his desire for temporary companionship. He doesn't want to make a commitment, nor is he ready to. Women didn't leave their husbands in the late 1800's; they didn't divorce, and if they did...... women with children would be forced to give up their entire family. They would be ostracized from society, and their reputations were ruined. Thus, romancing a married woman was considered safe....... and temporary. Unless of course the couple was caught. 


The Awakening