The Awakening

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The Sea Symbol Analysis

The Sea Symbol Icon
Such freedom comes with a price, however. The novel’s birds symbolize both the joys of freedom and its potential dangers. As she listens to Mademoiselle Reisz’s music, Edna imagines a man watching a bird flying into the distance. Later, Edna’s story about illicit love makes her listeners hear the romantic rustling of birds in the dark. In both instances, birds are markers of forbidden desire. And as the book draws to its conclusion, birds become warning signs. Edna watches a bird with a broken wing float down to the ocean in the moments before she drowns.
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The Sea Symbol Timeline in The Awakening

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Sea appears in The Awakening. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 10
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...been spending as much time with her as usual. Edna had never been able to swim, and Robert had tried all summer to teach her; but she was always strangely afraid... (full context)
Chapter 16
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Realism and Romanticism Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...thinks of him all the time, and feels disinterested in the life around her. She swims often and visits Madame Lebrun, who talks to her about Robert and shows her Robert’s... (full context)
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...remembers that the two brothers quarreled over the girl named Mariequita. Edna grows sad and swims for a long time. Back on shore, Mlle Reisz invites Edna to come visit her... (full context)
Chapter 23
Realism and Romanticism Theme Icon
Action and Reflection Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...her husband, and Edna makes up a story about two lovers that got lost at sea. The doctor assumes Edna is in love with another man. (full context)
Chapter 39
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...a visit, and asks if she could have a room in the house and a seat at dinner. First, though, she wants to go for a swim. (full context)
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...her soul into love, but she doesn’t want to sacrifice her soul to them. The sea in front of her is inviting and solitary, and a bird with a broken wing... (full context)
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...open for the first time. She loves the free feeling. She walks into the cold water and swims farther and farther out. She becomes very tired, then afraid for a moment,... (full context)