When I first started this blog (as just a reading blog) and was surfing to see if there was possibly anyone else in the world who would be reading Kate Chopin (needless to say, there was), I read in someone else’s post that it ends tragically. I managed to keep myself from performing those spontaneous calculations when someone presents you with information you don’t want to know.
However, that didn’t stop me honing into the eventuality of the final scene.
The choice of immediately placing Edna in Grand Isle, once again, had a delirious sense of time warp. The fact that she is there out of season, when the place doesn’t exude the same hospitable vibe, but more of a barren, deserted feeling, eerily starts creeping up on the reader like a foreshadower of the end. Our final vision of Edna is naked, without any garments, completely exposed to the elements. This is such a remarkable transformation from the start; such a perfect evolution of her awakening process. There have been points earlier in the book when Chopin draws our attention towards Edna’s relationship to her clothes, having her remove them like shackles:
“Edna, left alone in the little room, loosened her clothes, removing the greater part of them. She bathed her face, neck and arms in the basin that stood between the windows. She took off her shoes and stockings and stretched herself in the very centre of the high, white bed.”
The scene above takes place after Edna leaves a church service with Robert after a “feeling of oppression and drowsiness overcomes” her. That day can perhaps be described as a first turning point in her awakening process. The oppression she feels suggests an intensity of perception and a hyper awareness of her surroundings from which she breaks free by taking refuge in Madam Antoine’s little house. Her deep afternoon slumber in the pristine, serene white room in the middle of the bright, hot day spells a certain transcendence.
To find her, at the novel’s end, completely alone, without clothes, in the same sea that first awakens her, is a fitting end to say the least. As she walks onwards into the horizon, letting go of any pangs of terror and connection, it’s as if a tight ball has been completely unwound and its structure dissolved into oblivion…