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The Awakening Stages Of Edna's Love Affairs Symbolized By Her Swimming Experience In The Awakening - With A Free Essay Review

Through the passing and development of time in a person's life, one goes through major phases of enlightenment which bring upon life altering changes. In The Awakening, Kate Chopin shows the enlightenment stage of Edna Pontellier's life as she pursues a quest for her self identity. Edna Pontellier becomes awakened to the realization that she is miserable in the Victorian society in which she lives. As Edna begins to become more aware of her misery, she realizes that she is a shell of a person putting up a facade to please those around her. As Edna reaches out to embrace a feeling of independence and identity, she goes through three love affairs in pursuit of the self contentment she seeks. For Edna, this is a process of her life that is much like the process of her learning to swim.

When Edna first learns to swim, she finds she is struggling to keep herself afloat. In the same sense that Edna finds it difficult to keep afloat above the water, she also finds it difficult to keep afloat in her marriage to Leonce Pontellier. In Edna's marriage with Leonce, Edna becomes aware of the dissatisfaction she finds in the quality of the relationship. This dawns on Edna late one night when her husband insults and criticizes Edna, although not uncommon with their marriage, this severs the last string for Edna that holds this marriage in place, "Blowing out the candle, which her husband left burning.."(Chopin 18). When Edna burns out the candle, it signifies the end of Edna's effort in making the marriage work, although Leonce may still be putting effort in. Once she realizes she is miserable in the situation she is in, Edna begins to struggle against her husband's demanding and oppressive nature and the role she is expected to play in society.

Soon after Edna gives up on her marriage, she engages in an affair with Robert Lebrun. As Edna becomes involved with Robert, she begins to experience happiness and confidence. For Edna, these are the same emotions she experiences when she progresses from struggling to stay afloat while swimming, to being able to swim a distance without depending on the ground to support her if she fails, "A feeling of exultation overtook her , as if some power of significant import had been given to her to control the working of her body and her soul" (Chopin 46). Edna begins to branch away from her husband and seek independence so that she does not have to depend on her husband as she would with the ground when swimming. The affair with Robert helps Edna begin to find her independence and gives her the power to defy her husband, giving her the power "to control the working of her body and her soul."

In the final stage of Edna's swimming experience, she ventures out into the sea far from her comfort zone, the land. This last stage of Edna's swimming experience is indicative of her final love affair with Alcee Arobin. When Edna swims far out from the shore, she begins to fear that she may not be able to get back from where she started, "..the stretch of water behind her assumed the aspect of a barrier which her unaided strength would never be able to overcome " (Chopin 46). Edna realizes that her affair with Arobin has distanced herself so far from her marriage with Leonce and her expected role in society that it would be impossible for her to regain her former life. As Edna comes to terms with this realization, she becomes aware that she may not have the strength to regain her former composure and deal with the distance she has ventured, leading away from what was once a comfortable lifestyle that was of familiarity.

When Edna Pontellier learns to swim, she undergoes three major phases, like that of three love affairs. As Edna seeks self contentment she struggles against her marriage and, in doing so, experiences a feeling of pure ecstasy, but then discovers that she has ventured to a point of no return, where her former role in society is no longer familiar to her and cannot be fulfilled. By doing so, Edna ends up losing herself instead of establishing a sense of identity and independence. It shows how one can easily get lost in the path to achieving a goal to turn around and realize that more damage was done than good.



The first paragraph is not especially strong; the writing is wordy, while the thesis is a little bit banal. I think you need an argument that is a little more complex than the fact that learning to swim has symbolic value. Your essay explains how Edna’s experiences when learning to swim are similar to her experiences in her relationships, but the essay doesn’t give the reader much of a reason to be interested in that similarity or to think of it as an important part of the novel. Take your second paragraph, for example. You say that Edna, learning to swim, “struggl[es] to keep herself afloat.” You claim that is like her struggle “to keep afloat in her marriage,” whatever that means. The rest of the paragraph has nothing to do with swimming; it speaks only about the nature of Edna’s troubled experience of married life. The point is that what your paragraph reveals about that experience does not depend in any way on the comparison to the experience of learning to swim. Leaving out the first two sentences of the paragraph would make no difference to what the paragraph communicates about Enda’s experience. You can address this problem by abandoning your attempt to explicate the significance of swimming in the novel, or by thinking about and elaborating that significance in greater detail. Principally, you would need to answer this question: How does the image of Edna struggling to remain afloat help us understand her experience? For what’s most missing from this paragraph and throughout the essay is a clear sense of what exactly we can learn about Edna’s development from the swimming experiences. What extra light do the episodes shed on the emergence of Edna’s independence and the “awakening” of her passion? Finally, if you want to write about swimming in the novel, then not addressing the novel’s conclusion is probably also a significant weakness of the essay.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: Taylor

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