Swimming the Sea to Symbolism

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Swimming the Sea to Symbolism

To some people swimming is a form of exercise, some may use swimming as a type of stress reliever, and to others it may just be something to do for fun. To Edna Pontellier, it’s a form of awakening, and becoming who she is meant to be. Throughout The Awakening by Kate Chopin, much of a deeper meaning in the story is revealed though a number of important symbols. The symbolic element of swimming and the sea make the connection between Edna’s world and her eventual awakening more vivid and meaningful for the reader. The sea and swimming symbolize freedom and metaphorical death.

Throughout the novel, swimming and the sea symbolize Edna’s longing to be free from society’s expectations of her to be a perfect mother and caring wife. When Edna is around those expectations, she feels stressed and suppressed, but when she is around the water, she feels calm, cool, and collective. The sea is where Edna feels like she can be the person she wants to be, and not who society wants her to be. This becomes very evident in the novel when Edna learns to swim on her own, “A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given to control the working of her body and her soul” (47). That short passage reveals how the sea motivates Edna to be different from what society wants. When Edna is swimming in the sea, she doesn’t feel like a mother or wife anymore, she feels like she is getting away from the social expectations of society. In this time period, most women just went along with the expectations set on them; they put their children before anything, and they listened to exactly what their husbands had to say. Because of the sea, Edna has found what it feels like to not conform to society’s expectations; she’s felt what it’s like to be completely free and independent.

The sea and swimming are very important symbols in The Awakening, which Chopin uses to show familiar effects. In Chapter VI, as Edna...
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