A kind of wry but sympathetic voice tells the story of Edna's turmoil. Although told in the third-person, the account closely follows Edna and her thought processes. The dialogue often reveals the sharp disjunctures between thought and speech. Kate Chopin's true artistry is at work here. Generally, the voice is observant and non-judgmental.
Awakening from the slumber of patriarchal social convention is the main theme of the book. Edna must rouse herself from the life of dullness she has always lived. What she awakens to, however, it is so much larger than herself that she ultimately cannot manage the complexity of it.
The artist's ability to create herself is another theme. Can Edna do it? Life's paradoxes are so huge, and Edna's experience so limited, that the question fuels the book's plot.
Awakening sexuality is another often-discussed theme. Edna, during the course of the story, comes to physical awakening. Tragically, it is not through someone she loves, and this devastates her. When sexual awakening comes with the object of her desire, Robert, it is short-lived. The intensity of feeling, however, is there. Edna lives.