Swiftly turned into snail’s pace. The Awakening was nothing close to what I expected. And it took me a lot longer to read because of it. It’s one of those books where nothing quite happens. The driving force behind the book resides within Edna, our main character. Basically, the book deals with her “awakening” as a woman. Through an infatuation she taps not only into her sexuality, but also her independence. In the end though, rebuffed by the man she’s in love with, she surrenders herself to the sea. Whether it is actually a surrender or a final act of freedom isn’t specified, it’s up to the reader to decide.
When it was initially published, The Awakening caused quite a bit of scandal. Here was a woman who cheated on her husband, but more than that a woman who disobeyed her husband, wasn’t particularly devoted towards her children or willing to sacrifice for them, and who didn’t seem all too interested in maintaining her household. You can imagine people in 1899 were alarmed, to say the least, when confronted with such a woman. Even if the book felt like a drag for me, I’ve got to admit Edna was kind of a cool chick in that respect.
In the beginning of the book she learns to swim, after much coaching from everyone around her. It feels to me that after that first initial success she keeps on swimming, farther and farther away from everything she’s ever known. Shedding the numbness that had held her paralyzed in a conventional life to finally feel like she belonged to herself. That first time she finds herself so far from the shore she panics, overwhelmed by the notion that she’ll never be able to return. And even though she eventually made it back to dry land, the sea and that point of no return remained with her.
With her children being kept safe by their grandparents, her husband off at work, and the man she loved having left her, she returns to the water. I would venture to say that there was nowhere else for her to go, but back to the sea. I haven’t decided whether it’s a final act of freedom or a cowardly escape, but it makes sense to me for it to all end in the water.
If you’ve read The Awakening, I’d love to hear what you have to say about it. Let me know in the comments below. Until next time, readers!