The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 6

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Chapter 6

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In this chapter, the narrator reports the beginning of a shift in Edna's self-awareness: "A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly within her,-the light which, showing the way, forbids it." As other students of The Awakening (such as Sandra M. Gilbert) have noted, Chopin's book contains a strong Edenic motif, and this short chapter reveals an example of that motif. Edna is gaining knowledge of "her position in the universe as a human being," and that knowledge is at once freeing and forbidden. Like Eve eating forbidden fruit, Edna is experiencing the opening of her eyes: not to knowledge of sin, but to knowledge of an experience which her society would label "sin," an experience of herself as a true individual-not a "mother-woman," defined solely by her biological and marital attachments. The narrator evokes the book of Genesis itself in referring to Edna's gradually dawning epiphany as "the beginning . . . of a world." A further allusion to the biblical account of creation in Genesis 1 surfaces when this interior drama is juxtaposed with the external drama of the "never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring" call of the sea. As the Holy Spirit brooded over the watery chaos of Creation (see Gen. 1:2), so has the "Holy Ghost" now imparted "perhaps more wisdom" to the newly chaotic inner life of Edna, inspired (as we will see more fully in the next chapter) by her proximity to the sea.

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