In detail, explain how the flashbacks to Edna's past function. 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the best function of flashbacks operate in the final scene of the novel.  Edna's entire life had been one in which she was "asleep," waiting to be "awakened."  The flashbacks fit into this narrative at the end of the novel.  They appear as voices she hears, being drowned out by the water's sound.  Her flashbacks go as far back to her sisters' voices and the presence of her father.  They operate as a frame of reference in representing how far Edna has come and how much she has grown or "awakened" from that time.  The fact that the flashbacks at the end of the novel come in the form of voices is also significant.  These voices represent the idea that at one point she understood and experienced these realities, these voices, only to find that now in her life they have their own specific contexts.  In a way, the flashbacks represent who she used to be, the person she was.  Their function at the end of the novel is to represent the past conception of Edna, one that has become permanently put to sleep and not "awakened."  It is here where I think that Edna's flashbacks into her past function in a profound manner, reflecting how a construction of self used to be in light of what is and, as Edna enters the water, what can and will be.