Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

Love and Water

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Edna Pontellier’s appending suicide has been considered one of the most controversial endings in the history of literature.  The sacredness of the sea and her lack of interest in her domestic duties elude to the notion that Edna does indeed drift off into the water with the intention of killing herself, but this is not known for sure.  Chopin writes:

The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to waner for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lost itself in mazes of inqard contemplation.

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.  The touch of the sea is senuous, enfolding the body in its soft, clost embrace. (705)

There is an interesting article written by Rich Christie that connects Edna’s need for independence and self-discovery with her growing passion for the sea.  What once was an irrational fear has turned into an escape from reality.  As a small child, Enda felt a deep fear of drowing and instability while wading through the water.  It is not until she is an adult that she begins to realize that the water creaetes a sense of peace and isolation.  Chopin says, “Once she turned and looked toward the shore, toward the people she had left there. She had not gone any great distance – that is, what would have been a great distance for an experienced swimmer. But to her unaccustomed vision the stretch of water behind her assumed the aspect of a barrier which her unaided strength would enver be able to overcome” (715).  As Edna looks longingly toward the shore, there is this sense that the sea represents the “infinite” and “engulfing” emotions that flow through her.  The fact that her husband is away, her children are at their grandmother’s and she had thought about buying a small house for her own eludes to Edna’s deperate attempt at forming her own inderpendence away from the typical Creole lifestyle.  Edna is attracted to everything that goes against her society.  She begins a quest to find her individuality and find the things in life that satisfy her needs rather than the needs of her family.  “Edna looked straight before her with a self-absorbed expression upon her face. She felt no interest in anything about her” (733).  Edna no longer felt no interest in attending to anything other than her own happiest, and even that was not on top of her list.

The past was nothing to her; offered no lesson which was willing to heed. The future was a mystery which she never attempted to penetrate” (728).

When Chopin says that Enda’s future was never a concern of hers, there is this sense that the future was not important because she never planned on having a future.  Her suicide could have been pending and building up for a very long time.   She didn’t think about the future because her death was pre-determined, the future simply did not matter.  This quote backs up the idea made by many critics that her suicide was intentional; that Edna drifted into the water with the intention that she was going to kill herself.  I do not think that this is the case at all.  Edna’s previous irrational fear of water is wiped away, and as she drifts into the sea there is this sense that she is finally able to trust what she has feared just as she has been able to stand up for herself in a society that did not accept women as equals.  The water represents her finally liberating herself from what was unjust; and just as she felt a barrier between herself and the shore earlier in the novel, Edna feels an isolation that finally brings her at peace.


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