Chapter VI

EDNA PONTELLIER COULD not have told why, wishing to go to the beach with Robert, she should in the first place have declined, and in the second place have followed in obedience to one of the two contradictory impulses which impelled her.

A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly within her—the light which, showing the way, forbids it.

At that early period it served but to bewilder her. It moved her to dreams, to thoughtfulness, to the shadowy anguish which had overcome her the midnight when she had abandoned herself to tears.

In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her. This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight—perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman.

But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult!

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

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.

Footnotes

  1. “Sensuous” is an adjective that means affecting the physical senses instead of the mind. However, it is also a double entendre (a word with multiple meanings) that means sexually or physically gratifying. Within this metaphor, Chopin suggests that Edna’s awakening will also be sexual.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Here, the narrator assumes that the audience views Edna’s awakening from the standpoint of her patriarchal society: individuality and humanity is a “ponderous weight” for a mere woman. However, the careful reader will notice that Chopin uses this unreliable narrator to point out the ridiculousness of this point of view. The narrator’s comments are ironic and function to prompt the reader to read past what is being said to see the reality of Edna’s situation.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. At the time of publication, women were still considered property in Louisiana. Edna’s developing understanding of herself as a human being is groundbreaking because she is considered and treated like an object. This awakening of her individuality was extremely controversial because at the time of this novel’s publication, women’s rights were just beginning to creep into greater awareness. This makes Edna’s burgeoning consciousness all the more contentious.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor