A motif is a "usually recurring salient thematic element." In other words, a motif is a dominant idea or central theme. One of the many and diverse motifs in The Awakening is the sea. The sea, in the story, represents Edna's rebirth. In chapter ten, Edna takes her first swim in the sea. The sea is an unexplored and uncharted realm where no one dares to venture out into. It's a realm where one can escape society's conventions. Edna exclaims, "How easy it is! Why did I not discover before that it was nothing. Think of the time I have lost splashing about like a baby!" When Edna takes her first swim in the sea, she transforms from a "Madame Ratignolle" to a "Mademoiselle Reisz." She becomes more independent and more rebellious.
Another important quote from chapter ten is "... She would not join the groups in the sports and bouts but...
she swam out alone." The sea symbolizes independence and freedom. Edna would not join the groups, which symbolize society's conventions. Instead, she ventures out alone into the sea where she's free to do anything as her will pleases. She's determined to be independent and unique, unlike the rest.
"A quick vision of death smote her soul, and for a second of time appalled and enfeebled her senses... she managed to regain the land... She made no mention of her encounter with death..." The sea foreshadows Edna's eventual death at the end of the novel.
The sea is used repetitively in the novel to emphasize its importance to the reader. The sounds of the sea constantly seduce Edna throughout the novel.