Grand Isle and New Orleans During the Late 19th Century
The temporal setting is important because of the restrictive society in which Edna lives. Edna’s story wouldn’t make much sense if it took place in a society where divorce is possible, or artistry is supported regardless of gender.
As for the importance of setting the story in the Bayou State, the Creole lifestyle plays a key part in awakening Edna to the joys of being open and passionate. Even more importantly, Edna’s vacation at Grand Isle is also a key part of her awakening. Her constant dips into the ocean awaken Edna in a very physical way (and not just sexually).
A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before. (10. 7)
In cliché terms, swimming empowers Edna. The sea teaches her to gain control of her movements and of her body, rendering it harder for her to obey when Mr. Pontellier acts like he owns her body.
The Importance of Setting in The Awakening Essay
2206 Words9 Pages
The Importance of Setting in The Awakening
Setting is a key element in Chopin's novel, The Awakening To the novel's main character, Edna Pontellier, house is not home. Edna was not herself when enclosed behind the walls of the Pontellier mansion. Instead, she was another person entirely-- someone she would like to forget. Similarly, Edna takes on a different identity in her vacation setting in Grand Isle, in her independent home in New Orleans, and in just about every other environment that she inhabits. In fact, Edna seems to drift from setting to setting in the novel, never really finding her true self - until the end of the novel.
Chopin seems highly concerned with this question throughout her…show more content…
The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace (Ch. 6, p. 13).
As Chopin writes, the sea is the place where Edna can truly look within herself in order to find out what lies beneath her socially constructed façade. Whether she ever does find her true self is another question. It is difficult to define Edna's "self" because it never seems to emerge at any point in the novel. Chopin presents us with Edna's identity problems early on:
Mrs. Pontellier was not a woman given to confidences, a characteristic hitherto contrary to her nature. Even as a child, she had lived her own small life all within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life-that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions (Ch. 7, p. 13).
The novel's abrupt and tragic ending (coincidentally on Grand Isle) puts an immediate halt to Edna's pursuit to answer those very questions. She does begin to slowly uncover small snippets of her life's true value in different settings throughout the novel and therefore begins to stake a claim for an identity. For example, it is on Grand Isle that Edna learns to swim-- a moment of complete liberation and discovery of her self, or at least a some facet of identity:
But that night she was like the little tottering, stumbling, clutching child, who all of a sudden