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What is Edna's response to the music of Mademoiselle Reisz in The Awakening?How is this...

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preetd | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 17, 2009 at 5:24 AM via web

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What is Edna's response to the music of Mademoiselle Reisz in The Awakening?

How is this related to the "awakening" theme in the novel?

This is from Chapter 9.

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 19, 2009 at 8:34 AM (Answer #1)

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Mademoiselle Reisz's music evokes feelings within Edna that she has never experienced before.  Edna is "fond" of music, and certain pieces rendered by Madame Ratignolle have in the past brought to her mind images which are beautiful, both plaintive yet calm.  One piece, which Edna has entitled "Solitude", calls to her imagination a "figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the seashore...naked...his attitude...one of hopeless resignation as he look(s) toward a distant bird winging its flight away from him".  Others bring to her mind pictures of "a dainty young woman...taking mincing dancing steps", and "a demure lady stroking a cat".  In contrast to these lovely but tightly controlled images, the "first chords which Mademoiselle Reisz (strikes) upon the piano (send) a keen tremor down (Edna's) spinal chord".  Instead of feelings of longing, hope, and despair, she responds with passions which jolt her soul with their intensity, "swaying it, lashing it; as the waves daily beat upon her splendid body",  Edna Pontellier trembles and chokes, her eyes blinded by tears.

Edna's reaction to Mademoiselle Reisz's music mirrors the theme of awakening in the novel.  Her response is passionate and unfettered, reflecting the deep longings she discovers within herself which lead her to throw off conventionality and leave her life of conformity and quiet domesticity to seek independence and personal fulfillment.  Edna's response to the music, like her personal awakening, involves feelings which are infinitely more intense than those which she has until now allowed herself and which are socially acceptable, and it includes a physical aspect as well as a spiritual one.  The fact that it occurs at a time in her life when her whole being is being awakened to new possibilities is perhaps because it is "the first time she (is) ready, perhaps the first time her being (is) tempered to take an impress of the abiding truth" (Chapter 9).

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