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Art, in "The Awakening," becomes a symbol of freedom and of failure.
Edna and Robert are attracted to one another from the first meeting, though they do not realize it.
They unwittingly flirt with each other, so that only the narrator and reader understand what is going on.
“She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength.
She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before.” Kate Chopin’s "The Awakening" (1899) is the story of one woman’s realization of the world and potential within her.
For instance, at the end of Chapter 31, the narrator writes, “He did not answer, except to continue to caress her.
He did not say good night until she had become supple to his gentle, seductive entreaties.” However, it is not only in situations with men that Edna’s passion is flared.
She realized that she had neglected her reading, and determined to start anew upon a course of improving studies, now that her time was completely her own to do with as she liked.” That Edna is reading Ralph Waldo Emerson is significant, especially at this point in the novel, when she is starting a new life of her own.
This new life is signaled by a “sleep-waking” metaphor, one which, as Ringe points out, “is an important romantic image for the emergence of the self or soul into a new life.” A seemingly excessive amount of the novel is devoted to Edna sleeping, but when one takes into account that, for each time Edna falls asleep, she must also awaken, one begins to realize that this is just another way of Chopin demonstrating Edna’s personal awakening.
For instance, in the chapter where Robert and Edna speak of buried treasure and pirates: “And in a day we should be rich! “I’d give it all to you, the pirate gold and every bit of treasure we could dig up. Pirate gold isn’t a thing to be hoarded or utilized.
It is something to squander and throw to the four winds, for the fun of seeing the golden specks fly.” The two do not understand the significance of their conversation, but in reality, the words speak of desire and sexual metaphor. Tompkins wrote in "Feminist Studies:" Though it is never directly spelled out, Chopin uses language to convey the message that Edna has stepped over the line, and damned her marriage.