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Published in 1899, "The Awakening" utilizes the dominant realistic style of its era of American writing. Realism dictates that the objects of the piece (characters, setting, events, etc.) be treated with a sort of scientific detachment, as if it were merely a slice of life held up for the reader's inspection and possible judgment. Accordingly, Kate Chopin writes the story in a neutral third person omniscient narrator, who does not intrude upon the relation of events but merely seems to dispassionately chronicle them, even while demonstrating knowledge of what is going through the protagonist's mind and heart. For example the narrator comments, ““At a very early period she [Edna] had apprehended the instinctively the dual life - that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions.” The narrator describes both Edna’s inner and outer life.
However, the story also abounds in symbolism. One inescapable symbol is that of the ocean, which Edna regards as an ultimate sign of freedom. We are told, “the voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” It is because of this scintillating symbolism that Edna finally embraces the sea, as she claims the ultimate freedom that it offers.
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