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.
These lines from Chapter VI describe
the beginning of Edna’s process of awakening. Most of the concepts
explored in the novel are mentioned in this passage: independence
and solitude, self-discovery, intellectual maturation, and sexual
desire and fulfillment. With the remark, “How few of us ever emerge
from such beginning!” the narrator points out that Edna is unique
in her willingness to embark upon her quest for autonomy, fulfillment,
and self-discovery. Certainly, each new character that appears in
the book only serves to highlight Edna’s uniqueness. The narrator’s
subsequent remark, “How many souls perish in [the beginning’s] tumult!”
foreshadows the turmoil that will result from Edna’s growing awareness.
It seems to suggest that from the moment her awakening begins, Edna
is marked for death. Additionally, the mention of the sea’s sensual
and inviting voice presages Edna’s eventual suicide. The line that
begins, “The voice of the sea . . .” is repeated almost verbatim
just before Edna’s death.