The Awakening

What does Edna learn?

from the beggining of the book till the end

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All the new feelings and emotions that have been building up inside of Edna suddenly come together in the final chapters. Finally, after blindly doing her own thing for so long, Edna realizes the full meaning of her awakening‹only to find herself up against a wall. After witnessing Madame Ratignolle's ordeal and hearing her warning, Edna understands that she cannot simply do whatever she wants without regard to consequence. No matter how hard she tries to disregard convention and the people around her, she cannot escape from her responsibility to her children. She is not acting in a vacuum, and she cannot simply abandon her children to fend for themselves in a difficult world. Even though she is willing to risk social ostracism for herself, she recognizes that she needs to protect her children, and in order to do so, she must compromise some of her ideals and desires.

In the final chapter, Edna returns to Grand Isle, and the novel comes full circle. The island was the scene of her original awakening, and after a year, she is once again returning to the ocean. The water, which had seduced her with its sound and helped awaken her sensuous nature, reclaims her in this chapter. She first realized her mental, physical, and emotional potential while discovering how to swim, so it is only natural that she destroy this potential by drowning herself.

However, the novel does not end on a pessimistic tone. Before she dives into the ocean, Edna stands naked in the sun and feels once again reborn. Edna destroys herself, but paradoxically, she is also reclaiming her life. She is asserting that her life is hers to have and to destroy, and she is refusing to sacrifice it on behalf of society.