What are some good quotes to show the symbolism of the sea in The Awakening by Kate Chopin?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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You might like to turn to Chapter Six, which is when Edna's awakening begins, and in particular when she comes to associate her awakening with the sea. The sea is of course an incredibly powerful symbol in the entire novel, and what is key to realise is the way that it represents freedom--sexual freedom, intellectual freedom and physical freedom--for a woman who has just realised how society has constrained her. Consider the following three paragraphs:

In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her. This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight—perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman.

But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult!

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.

Note how several key themes are covered in this rather lengthy quote. We have reference to solitude and Edna's desire for independence, her self-discovery, the way that she is maturing and growing intellectually and finally her sexual desires and needs. Note the way that the sea in particular has a "seductive" voice, which of course foreshadows Edna's final destination as she embarks on her voyage of awakening. Ultimately, the novel seems to suggest, death is the only escape or ending for one who sets herself on the path to awakening in such a context, and the sea seems to be the persistent seductive voice that runs throughout the entire novel.

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