The first and most over-arching example of Edna's awakening comes from her learning to swim. At the start of the novel she is just learning to swim and is fearful whenever she is in water and out of arms reach of safety. She is metaphorically tied to the land and the Creole society -- a place where she knows what to expect. After several chapters she learns to swim without assistance, and her sense of freedom and independence grows. She realizes that if she can do this for herself, she may be able to do other things. This simple act of swimming is not so simple. After this realization she is more bold in her awakenings in other parts of her life. For example, she is refuses to come to bed just because Leonce wants her to; she spends more time with Robert and away from the family; she eventually refuses the social obligations of her "Tuesday's at home"; and she ultimately moves out of the family home and into a smaller home around the block. She is independent, to a certain extent, from Leonce and her social and familial obligations.
This act of learning to swim comes full circle then at the end of the novel when she chooses to swim far out, so far out that she can't come back, and she drowns herself. Her awakening to the idea that she cannot have the life she wants drives her to this decision and she takes control of her situation with this most drastic measure.