Summary of the Novel
The Awakening begins in Grand Isle, where the Pontellier family is vacationing for the summer. Leonce Pontellier’s newspaper reading has been interrupted by the loud talking of the caged parrot so he returns to his own cottage. Edna Pontellier returns from bathing in the ocean with Robert Lebrun, and her husband criticizes her for bathing so late in the day. She and Robert share laughs over something that happened at the ocean, but Leonce is bored with the conversation. He leaves to go to a men’s club at a hotel called Klein’s. Robert stays with Edna.
When Mr. Pontellier returns late that night, he reprimands Edna for her neglect of the children. She begins to cry, feeling an “indescribable oppression.” The next day we meet Adele Ratignolle, who is pregnant and a classic “mother-woman.” Edna, Adele, and Robert spend the afternoon together, and Robert is very attentive to Edna; they later go swimming together.
At the ocean with Adele, Edna remembers the times she was in love and how she “accidentally” married Leonce. Adele warns Robert to stay away from Edna. Some weeks later, all the summer guests gather together for an evening’s entertainment. We are introduced to Edna’s love of music. At the end of the evening, everyone goes swimming and Robert walks Edna home. Later Edna defies Leonce and stays out in the hammock after he instructs her to go inside.
The next day Edna and Robert go to Mass together at Cheniere Caminada and spend the whole day together there. Some time later Robert announces that he is leaving for Mexico that night, and Edna tries to hide her feelings, from herself as much as from anyone else. After he is gone, she misses him very much.
At the beach one day, Edna tells Adele that although she would give her life for her children, she wouldn’t give herself. Adele doesn’t understand.
After the summer, they go home to New Orleans, and Edna starts to forego her usual social engagements, for which she is reprimanded by Leonce. She begins taking long, solitary walks. She has lost interest in her home and family and takes up painting. She visits Mademoiselle Reisz and reads a letter from Robert, which makes her cry.
Leonce is worried about his wife and talks to Dr. Mandelet who advises him to let her have her way and maybe it will pass. After Edna’s father comes to stay for a while, Leonce and the children go away, and Edna is happily left alone. She paints, reads, and visits with friends. One of her new friends is Alcee Arobin, who is known for being a womanizer. They often go to the track together, and begin to spend time alone together in the evening.
While her family is still away, Edna decides to move out of her house to a smaller one around the corner. One day she goes to visit Mademoiselle Reisz and learns that Robert is coming home; she admits that she loves him. That night she begins her affair with Alcee Arobin and says of his kiss, “It was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded.” Later she is disappointed that the response wasn’t brought on by love. The night before she moves, Edna has a dinner party, and Alcee stays the night.
One day Edna goes to visit Mademoiselle Reisz and finds Robert there. She is hurt that he has not called on her since his return. He dines with her at her house that night but does not call or come visit after that. She spends more and more time with Alcee, although she still longs for Robert.
Luckily Edna runs into Robert accidentally, and he goes to her home with her. They finally both declare their love, and kiss, but then Edna has to leave to be with Adele Ratignolle, who is giving birth. When she returns, Robert is gone.
The novel ends with Edna leaving New Orleans and going back to Grand Isle. Shortly after her arrival there, she swims out as far as she can into the ocean, with no strength left to return.
Kate Chopin grew up in violent, turbulent times. She came from a slaveholding family in a city that was a major center for slave trade. There was constant fighting in St. Louis over secession. The Civil War began in 1861 when she was 11 years old, and she and everyone she knew lived in constant terror. There were times when she was confined to her home because of the fighting in the street. She learned to be self-sufficient from an early age.
After the Civil War ended, a period of strong activism among St. Louis women began. There were many outspoken suffragists, and other women who were beginning to question the path of marriage and motherhood. Susan B. Anthony was traveling and speaking extensively about equality and women’s rights. By the 1890s there were many “New Women” making their way in St. Louis. These were single women who became doctors, lawyers, and journalists.
Additionally, the works of Darwin, Spencer, and Huxley were transforming intellectual thought. People were beginning to question things they had always held as truth, including definitions of morality. Finally, the Industrial Revolution was well under way, and the whole world was changing. The Awakening was published in 1899, just at the turn of the century, and there was constant tension between tradition and movement, old and new.
The majority of the reviews for The Awakening were unfavorable. Although her writing was praised, the book was described as “unhealthy,” “unwholesome,” “unpleasant,” and “a dangerous specimen of sex fiction.” Despite the fact that many women had begun to write novels with daring themes by the time The Awakening was published, for example, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, even novels with the most radical themes still tended to promote traditional values and have traditional resolutions. Even some of the most radical women still thought that sexual passion was immoral and unhealthy for women. So it is no surprise that even amidst the incredible changes, for women and the country as a whole Kate Chopin was censured for the choices made by her protagonist, Edna Pontellier. Edna’s passion was described by one reviewer as an “ugly, cruel, loathsome monster.”
Kate Chopin, herself, and through Edna Pontellier, questioned the traditional idea of woman as wife and mother, without passion and without her own mind. The Awakening depicts the powerful “cage of convention” and the futility both Kate and Edna felt in trying to live a life of freedom.
List of Characters
Edna Pontellier—The protagonist of the novel, she is a 28-year-old married woman with children who yearns for more out of life. The novel is about her journey of discovery.
Leonce Pontellier—Edna’s husband; He is, by all accounts, a good man, but he treats Edna like a possession rather than an equal.
Madame Lebrun—The owner of the resort at Grand Isle where the Pontellier family spends their summers.
Robert Lebrun—The 26-year-old son of Madame Lebrun; He and Edna fall in love.
Adele Ratignolle—A friend of Edna’s; She is a beautiful woman who is devoted to her husband and children. She is pregnant and gives birth during the book.
Mademoiselle Reisz—A loner at Grand Isle, she is a gifted pianist who becomes very close to Edna.
The Farival Twins—Two young guests at Grand Isle who play the piano for the entertainment of the other guests.
Monsieur Farival—Grandfather of the twins.
Raoul and Etienne—The Pontellier’s two young children.
Victor Lebrun—The younger brother of Robert.
Mariequita—A “mischievous,” carefree Spanish girl who works at Grand Isle.
The Lovers—A young, unmarried couple who are oblivious to all but themselves.
Celestine—The Pontellier’s servant.
Baudelet—An old sailor who takes people by boat to Mass at Cheniere Caminada.
Madame Antoine—A fat village woman at Cheniere Caminada whose house Edna stays in when she feels ill.
Tonie—The son of Madame Antoine.
Dr. Mandelet—A good doctor who tries to help Edna.
Alcee Arobin—A young man-about-town with whom Edna has an affair.
The Highcamps and the Merrimans—Society people who are friends of Edna’s.
The Colonel—Edna’s father.
Miss Mayblunt and Gouvernail—Guests at Edna’s dinner party.
Estimated Reading Time
The average reader should be able to complete The Awakening in four to five hours. The short chapters make it easier to read, and certain chapters can be grouped together to aid the reader in understanding the story.
Chapters I through VI take place in Grand Isle and introduce the major conflicts of the novel and set the tone for Edna’s awakening.
Chapters VII through XVI are the remaining chapters that take place in Grand Isle. Here we see Edna’s various awakenings set in motion.
Chapters XVII through XXX take place in New Orleans. Here we see significant growth in both Edna’s rebellion and her resulting conflicts.
Chapters XXXI to XXXVIII also take place in New Orleans and are about Edna’s independence.
Chapter XXXIX should be read alone. The story moves back to Grand Isle, and it is the resolution of the novel.
Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
The Awakening, Kate Chopin’s masterpiece, is a psychologically realistic portrait of a fin de siècle woman’s search for her identity. The novel, which chronicles Louisiana society woman Edna Pontellier’s quiet rebellion against the strictures of a male-dominated society, shocked contemporary readers with its theme and its frank presentation of women’s sexuality, but its compelling presentation of the quest for self-fulfillment has earned it classic status.
On Grand Isle, a Gulf of Mexico resort where she is vacationing with her somewhat dull husband and their two children, Edna becomes aware of “her position in the universe,” and she begins to yearn for an escape from the cage of bourgeois matrimony. She realizes that she wishes to be more than merely one of the “mother-women” who “idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.”
Edna falls in love with handsome young Robert Lebrun, who reciprocates her feelings but who dares not overstep the bounds of convention with a married woman. After Lebrun leaves for Mexico and her husband leaves on an extended business trip, Edna begins an affair with a young roué, Alcée Arobin, who completes the sexual “awakening” that Lebrun had begun; she also moves out of her husband’s house into a smaller one, where she revels in her newly found...
(The entire section is 444 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The Pontelliers, residents of New Orleans, are vacationing at Grand Isle, a resort in the Gulf of Mexico. The Lebrun and Ratignolle families, also Creoles of New Orleans, are companions of Edna, who is unhappy with the limited role dictated to her by her husband Léonce. Madame Lebrun’s caged parrot symbolizes Edna’s feeling of being trapped in a loveless marriage and in an economically oriented social system in which women are only wives and mothers. Her husband expects her to be like Adèle Ratignolle, who exemplifies the type of submissive and sacrificial wife that Léonce expects and thinks he deserves. Edna, however, is not willing to submit to such traditions or to sacrifice herself for the sake of her husband and their two sons.
When Léonce notices that Edna was sunburned after spending a time on the beach with Robert Lebrun, his main concern is that a “valuable piece of personal property . . . suffered some damage.” In contrast to her husband’s business-based value system, Robert offers her companionship and sympathy. She talks to him of her girlhood in Kentucky. Meanwhile, Léonce complains about her “habitual neglect of the children.” Edna realizes that she can never be a good mother like Adèle if it means stifling her independence. “A certain light was beginning to dawn” in Edna that nurtures her dissatisfaction with her life and leads her to recognize that her marriage to the forty-year-old businessman (twelve years her...
(The entire section is 1098 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The Awakening begins with a seemingly insignificant event: Léonce Pontellier is disturbed while trying to read the newspaper. As Chopin reveals, however, this incident reflects the patriarchal structure of most late nineteenth century American marriages in which the entire family’s activities are inordinately structured around the husband’s wishes and moods, no matter how trivial.
The summer resort of Grand Isle is a setting that allows Léonce’s wife, Edna, to confront her dissatisfactions with her marriage. Further, she can explore first her awakened sexuality through the attentions of Robert LeBrun and then the subsequent desires for an alternative lifestyle that this awakening creates. While they are at Grand Isle, Léonce has no objections to Robert’s flirtations; indeed, he seems indifferent to the developing intimacy between Edna and Robert. When the family returns to New Orleans, Léonce assumes that Edna will return to the duties of a supportive wife.
Edna has awakened, however tentatively, to the excitement of personal liberty, and she discovers within herself a growing desire to control her own life. She has within her social circle two role models for women’s lives: the beautiful Madame Ratignolle, “a faultless Madonna,” who dedicates her life to her husband and children and who is, therefore, honored by everyone in the community; and Mademoiselle Reisz, a single woman who has dedicated her life to her music...
(The entire section is 836 words.)
The Awakening opens at the summer resort of Grand Isle, a small hotel located fifty miles off of the coast of New Orleans. Grand Isle is populated by well-to-do families escaping the blistering New Orleans heat. The action begins as Leonce Pontellier, the husband of the novel's protagonist, Edna Pontellier, sits on the porch of his cottage reading his day-old newspaper. Leonce is a self-important man who accepts as his due the deference of others to his perceived superiority. As Leonce sits on the porch, his wife returns from the beach with Robert Lebrun, the son of the resort owner. After some bantering between Robert and Edna about their trip to the beach, which Leonce does not find amusing, Leonce leaves for his club to play billiards. He invites Robert to join him, but the younger man declines the invitation, choosing instead to remain with Edna. Robert prefers the company of women, choosing to spend the long summer afternoons reading to the married ladies and playing with their children, rather than pursuing the more manly endeavors of working in the city or socializing at the local men's club. Each summer, Robert "constitutes himself the devoted attendant of some fair dame or damsel," but always chooses women who are safe—either girls who are too young to marry or matrons.
Edna does not fit in with the Grand Isle crowd. She is the only person at the hotel who is not a Creole, and she is embarrassed by the Creole society's openness on...
(The entire section is 2185 words.)
The Awakening opens at the summer resort of Grand Isle, a small hotel located fifty miles off of the coast of New Orleans. Grand Isle is populated by well-to-do families escaping the blistering New Orleans heat. The action begins as Léonce Pontellier, the husband of the novel's protagonist, Edna Pontellier, sits on the porch of his cottage reading his day-old newspaper. Léonce is a self-important man who accepts as his due the deference of others to his perceived superiority. As Léonce sits on the porch, his wife returns from the beach with Robert Lebrun, the son of the resort owner. After some bantering between Robert and Edna about their trip to the beach, which Léonce does not find amusing, Léonce leaves for his club to play billiards. He invites Robert to join him, but the younger man declines the invitation, choosing instead to remain with Edna. Robert prefers the company of women, choosing to spend the long summer afternoons reading to the married ladies and playing with their children, rather than pursuing the more manly endeavors of working in the city or socializing at the local men's club. Each summer, Robert "constitutes himself the devoted attendant of some fair dame or damsel," but always chooses women who are safe—either girls who are too young to marry or matrons.
Edna does not fit in with the Grand Isle crowd. She is the only person at the hotel who is not a Creole, and she is embarrassed by the...
(The entire section is 2092 words.)
Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
Edna Pontellier: the protagonist of the novel; a 28-year-old married woman with children who yearns for more out of life; the novel is about her journey of discovery
Leonce Pontellier: Edna’s husband; by all accounts, a good man, but treats Edna like a possession rather than an equal
Madame Lebrun: the owner of the resort at Grand Isle where the Pontellier family spends their summers
Robert Lebrun: the 26-year-old son of Madame Lebrun; falls in love with Edna
The Farival Twins: two young guests at Grand Isle who play the piano for the entertainment of the other guests
Raoul and Etienne: the Pontellier’s two young children
Leonce Pontellier is seated in the main building (known as the “House”) of a resort on Grand Isle. He is attempting to read a newspaper but is interrupted by the noise of a green and yellow parrot that speaks French and Spanish. He leaves the House and proceeds to his own cottage, where he again picks up his newspaper. He hears lots of noise from the House, including the Farival twins playing the piano, and Mrs. Lebrun, the owner of the resort. He sees his two children, ages four and five, with their quadroon nurse.
Leonce lights up a cigar and sees his wife Edna walking up to the cottage with Robert Lebrun. He reprimands them for bathing in the heat, and gives back her wedding rings, which...
(The entire section is 558 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis
The chapter begins with a description of Edna Pontellier. She has bright yellowish brown eyes and hair, and her eyebrows are a shade darker. She is handsome rather than beautiful, wears a frank expression, and has an engaging manner. Additionally, there is depth to her eyes and a subtlety to her features.
Robert Lebrun is also described for the reader. He is smoking a cigarette because he cannot afford cigars, although he has one that Leonce Pontellier had given to him. He is clean shaven and similar in complexion to Edna.
Robert and Edna chat together about their adventure in the water, and everything that is going on around them, including the children who are playing croquet and the Farival twins. They also talk about themselves and are both very interested in what the other has to say. Robert talks about his long-held desire to go to Mexico and make his fortune and how he remembers Grand Isle when there was no need for guests.
Edna talks about her childhood and her home in Kentucky. She reads a letter from her sister and Robert asks many questions about the family. Finally it is time to dress for dinner. Edna realizes Leonce won’t be coming home, and Robert agrees because there were many club men over at Klein’s. Robert then plays with the Pontellier children until dinner is ready.
Discussion and Analysis
The physical description of Edna Pontellier is a clue...
(The entire section is 465 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis
Leonce returns from Klein’s at eleven o’clock that evening, in high spirits and very talkative. Edna, who was sleeping when he came in, only half answers him as he talks. Leonce finds her lack of interest very discouraging.
Leonce forgot the bonbons and peanuts for the children, but he goes into their room to check on them. He reports back to Edna that Raoul has a fever and needs looking after. Then he sits down and lights up a cigar. Edna responds that Raoul went to bed perfectly well.
Leonce reprimands Edna for her neglect of the children, reminding her that it is a mother’s place to look after them. He is busy with his business and cannot do both. Edna gets out of bed to check on the children and then refuses to answer Leonce when he questions her upon her return. Leonce finishes his cigar and goes to sleep.
Edna begins to cry and slips outside to rock in the wicker chair. It is past midnight and very quiet, except for the sounds of an old owl and, of course, the sea, which “broke like a mournful lullaby upon the night.” Edna now begins crying very hard, and becomes filled with a sense of oppression and anguish. If not for the mosquitos biting her, she might have sat and cried for half the night.
Leonce is up early the next morning, ready and eager to go back to the city until the following weekend. A few days later a box of delicacies arrives from Leonce, which Edna shares...
(The entire section is 596 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis
Adele Ratignolle: a friend of Edna’s; a beautiful woman who is devoted to her husband and children; she is pregnant
This chapter begins with a description of Edna’s mothering. Leonce cannot define exactly Edna’s failings in this regard, but as an example, if one of the Pontellier children fell, he would not rush to his mother’s arms for comfort. Edna is not a “mother-woman”: a breed who idolize their children and worship their husbands and have no selves of their own.
One such mother-woman is Adele Ratignolle, who is described as “the embodiment of every womanly grace and charm.” She is very fond of Edna and is with her, doing her usual sewing, the day the box of delicacies arrives from Leonce. She had brought a pattern for Edna to cut for a winter outfit for the children. Edna is not interested in doing this but so as not to offend Adele, she cuts the pattern.
Edna offers Adele some bonbons, which Adele takes with some misgiving because she is pregnant. Adele had been married seven years and had a baby every two years. Robert, who is there also, tries to reassure Adele about the bonbon, but Edna blushes when he mentions the pregnancy.
Everyone at Grand Isle that summer is a Creole; Edna is a Creole only by marriage and does not feel entirely comfortable among them. She is especially taken by their freedom of expression and absence of...
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Chapters 5 and 6 Summary and Analysis
In Chapter V, Adele continues to sew, while Edna and Robert sit idle, exchanging occasional words and glances that suggest intimacy. Every summer Robert devotes himself to one woman, and this summer it is Edna. The summer before it was Adele, and they joked a bit about it as Robert described his passion to Edna. It was understood that his words of love were not to be taken seriously. Edna is glad Robert does not speak that way to her.
Edna has her sketchbook with her and begins to draw Adele. Robert praises the work, but Edna crumples it up because it does not look like Adele. While Edna is drawing, Robert rests his head against her arm. Even after she pushes him away, he does it again.
The children come up with their nurse, and Edna wants to talk to them but they are interested only in the bonbons. The sun is setting, and Adele gathers up her sewing to leave. She complains of faintness, and Edna and Robert rush to help her. Afterwards Edna wonders if Adele had been faking.
Edna watches Adele walk away and watches her children run and cling to her. She picks up the little one despite her doctor’s orders not to lift anything.
After Adele leaves, Robert asks Edna if she is going bathing. Edna says no, but Robert insists and they walk away together to the beach.
Chapter VI is only one page, and is a break from the plot. First Edna wonders why she first said no, and then so...
(The entire section is 729 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary and Analysis
The Lovers: a young, unmarried couple who are oblivious to all but themselves
Edna, usually a woman of outward reserve, is beginning to loosen up a bit at Grand Isle, mostly under the influence of Adele’s beauty and candor.
One morning the women go together to the beach, and although the children are left behind, Adele brings her needlework. Both women are described as tall, with Adele having a feminine and matronly figure, while Edna’s is “long, clean and symmetrical.” Similarly Adele is dressed in white ruffles while Edna is wearing white and brown linen.
At the beach, the Pontelliers and Ratignolles share adjoining compartments, and Edna pulls a rug and pillows out so the women can sit down in the shade against the front of the building. There are few people about; they see the lovers, the lady in black, and a few others further away.
Edna is gazing at the sea in such an absorbed way that Adele asks her what she is thinking. Edna begins to talk of her childhood in Kentucky and a particular day when she walked aimlessly through a green meadow. She says she feels the same way sometimes at Grand Isle. Adele takes her hand and begins caressing it, which is difficult at first for Edna who is not used to expressions of affection.
Next Edna begins thinking and talking about past affections she had for certain young men; she had been...
(The entire section is 639 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis
Victor Lebrun: the younger brother of Robert
As soon as Robert and Adele begin their walk away from the beach, Adele asks Robert to leave Edna alone. She is afraid that Edna might take him seriously. In his defense, Robert tells a story about Alcee Arobin and the consul’s wife and several other sordid stories. Then he declares that Edna would never take him seriously. He makes Adele a cup of bouillon and leaves for the main house.
On his way, he passes the lovers, who are oblivious to everything around them. He looks for Edna and the children, but not seeing them, he goes to his mother’s house. She is busy at her sewing machine.
Robert and his mother engage in some conversation and then they call out to Victor, who is driving off somewhere. He refuses to answer, however, and Madame Lebrun becomes very annoyed with the willful Victor. Madame Lebrun speculates that all would be well if only her husband had not died so young.
Madame Lebrun then tells Robert that a suitor of hers would be going to Mexico and has invited Robert to join him.
Discussion and Analysis
Adele, sensing Edna’s romantic inclinations, warns Robert to stay away from her. She reminds him that Edna is not a Creole and might take him seriously. Robert is offended but understands that he would not be able to keep company with the ladies the way he...
(The entire section is 351 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis
Mademoiselle Reisz: a loner at Grand Isle; a gifted pianist who becomes very close to Edna
It is now Saturday night, a few weeks after the conversation between Robert and Adele. The main house is all lit up and decorated, and all the guests are there for relaxation and entertainment. Even the children are permitted to stay up later than usual, until after ice cream and cake are served. The Farival twins perform the same songs as always on the piano, a little girl performs a dance, and a brother and sister give recitations. Then everyone dances while Adele plays the piano.
While Adele is playing, Edna conjures up an image of a naked man standing alone and hopeless on the beach, watching a bird fall from the sky.
Robert leaves to get Mademoiselle Reisz, who agrees, to everyone’s happiness, to play the piano. Edna is very fond of music; if it is well played, it evokes pictures in her mind. This time, however, she sees no pictures. Instead, the music invokes great passion, and she finds herself shaking and crying. Mademoiselle Reisz finishes playing and leaves, happy with Edna’s response.
The party breaks up shortly after Mademoiselle Reisz leaves, although many of the guests decide to go bathing at Robert’s suggestion.
Discussion and Analysis
The chapter opens with entertainment being provided for the guests, by the...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis
The guests walk in little groups down to the beach, but Robert lingers behind with the lovers. Edna wonders why he is not coming; she misses him when he is not around her. The sea is quiet and the moon is bright.
Edna had been trying all summer to learn to swim, but tonight she finally is able to swim. She is so happy she shouts for joy and swims out by herself as far as she can go. While out there, she feels a momentary twinge of panic, but manages to swim safely back in. After that she changes into dry clothes and leaves, despite protestations from the other guests.
Robert overtakes her as she is walking home, and they chat about spirits and the dreamlike quality of the night. At one point Edna becomes offended, thinking Robert is mocking her feelings. When they reach her cottage, Edna stretches out in the hammock to wait for Leonce. Robert waits until he thinks she is asleep and then leaves. She watches him walk away.
Discussion and Analysis
Edna is beginning to realize how much she misses Robert when he is not around. The imagery continues to get more romantic, erotic, and poetic as her feelings get stronger. At the beach she smells “a tangle of the sea smell and of weeds and damp, new-plowed earth, mingled with the heavy perfume of a field of white blossoms.”
Edna swims for the first time tonight and revels in the power she suddenly has over her body and...
(The entire section is 433 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary and Analysis
When Leonce returns to the cottage, he finds Edna lying in the hammock and asks, then demands, that she come inside. Edna refuses, realizing that this is the first time she has ever done so.
Leonce had prepared for bed already, but he goes outside and sits in the rocker with a glass of wine and a cigar. After a while, Edna feels her will leaving her; she begins to feel helpless again. She arises and goes inside and asks Leonce if he is joining her. He tells her he will come in after he finishes his cigar.
Discussion and Analysis
Edna’s refusal to go inside at Leonce’s command marks her first rebellion, powered by her swim and the spirits of the night. She realized that her will had “blazed up,” and that she could have not done other than refuse him. Her “awakening” is powerful and has more control of her than she has of it at times.
Unfortunately, Leonce still wins this first round. As he sits smoking on the porch, Edna again begins to feel “the realities pressing against her soul.” This is the reality of convention that Edna is fighting against, the convention that gives the husband control over the wife. Her feeling of exuberance turns to one of helplessness and weakness, and she has to yield.
(The entire section is 224 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis
Mariequita: a “mischievous,” carefree Spanish girl who works at Grand Isle
Baudelet: an old sailor who takes people by boat to Mass at Cheniere Caminada
Edna sleeps badly and is up and dressed early. Only a few others are up, those who intend to go to mass at the Cheniere. Edna sends Madame Lebrun’s servant to wake up Robert, to tell him to come to mass with her. They each have coffee and a roll, and then join the others at the wharf. The lovers are there, the lady in black, old Monsieur Farival, and a young girl named Mariequita whom Robert knows and speaks to in Spanish.
Edna stares at Mariequita, and Mariequita asks Robert if Edna is Robert’s lover. Robert answers that she is married.
Edna feels light and free again sailing on the bay, and Robert asks her to go with him to Grand Terre the following day. They chat about it for a while in an intimate manner, and then everybody goes to the church except Baudelet and Mariequita.
Discussion and Analysis
Here Chopin shows us how Edna’s “awakening” has taken hold of her; she is not acting with purpose so much as “blindly following whatever impulse moved her.” Edna has moved forward from feeling “aimless” and “unguided” in Chapter VII to feeling as if “alien hands” were directing her. She asks Robert to join her for mass without thinking about...
(The entire section is 375 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis
Madame Antoine: a village woman at Cheniere Caminada whose house Edna stays in when she feels ill
Tonie: the son of Madame Antoine
Edna begins to feel tired and sick during the service and leaves before it is over. Robert follows her outside and suggests they go to Madame Antoine’s. Madame Antoine welcomes them in and brings Edna to a room with a large, white four-posted bed. Robert sits outside with Madame Antoine to wait for Tonie. Edna bathes in the basin, undresses, and luxuriates in the smell of the bed and the feel of her body. Eventually she falls asleep.
When Edna awakes, she feels as if she has been asleep a long time. She washes again and walks into the adjoining room where she enjoys the food and drink Madame Antoine has set out for her. When she finds Robert, they joke that she slept for 100 years, and they are the only two people left.
Robert prepares more food, and they eat a hearty meal, deciding that since the others have already returned to Grand Isle they will wait till the sun goes down to return. Madame Antoine returns and tells them stories under the night moon. Then they leave in Tonie’s boat.
Discussion and Analysis
We see for sure here that Edna’s awakening is not religious in nature; in fact her strict religious upbringing was one of the causes of her repression. Now free to come or go,...
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary and Analysis
When Edna returns to her cottage at nine o’clock, Adele, who has been watching the children, tells Edna that Etienne, the younger of Edna’s sons, would not go to sleep. Edna sits in the rocker with him and soothes him to sleep. Leonce, after being dissuaded from fetching Edna back earlier, has gone to Klein’s.
Robert leaves and goes for a solitary walk after Edna points out that they have been together the whole day. Edna, too, stays alone, in the cottage, rather than join the others. She realizes that she has changed since last summer and that in fact she is different than she has ever been before.
She wonders why Robert has not stayed, and wishes that he had. She begins singing a song that he had sung to her on the boat.
Discussion and Analysis
Edna is very loving and attentive to her children when she returns from Cheniere Caminada because she is feeling good about herself. This is part of her central conflict. She can love them when she’s not feeling repressed by them.
Leonce, as usual, is not around. His role as husband is merely that of provider. He feels no responsibility to help around the house or spend time with his wife.
While Edna is awaiting Leonce’s return, she realizes that she is beginning to change; she just doesn’t understand the significance of the change yet. Although she is waiting for Leonce, she spends the time thinking...
(The entire section is 252 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary and Analysis
A few days later, Edna enters the dining room a little late and learns from several people at once that Robert is going away to Mexico and he is leaving for New Orleans that very evening. This comes as a surprise to her, and she shows it. Robert looks embarrassed and uneasy. He explains to everyone at the table, in a defensive voice, that he is going to meet someone in Vera Cruz and that he just decided that afternoon to go.
The lovers, as usual, speak only to each other. Everyone else is buzzing about the trip. Adele warns him about the Mexicans, whom she does not trust. Edna asks him what time he is leaving and then leaves the room.
She goes back to her cottage where she busies herself with little things and then tells the children a story. The little black girl comes by to invite Edna to Madame Lebrun’s to sit until Robert leaves, but Edna feigns illness. Adele stops by and Edna expresses her shock, with which Adele agrees. Then Adele leaves to join the group.
Robert finally stops by, and Edna berates him for not telling her of his plan. She tells him how she looks forward to seeing him and spending time together. Robert agrees and intimates that this is the reason he is leaving. He holds out his hand, and Edna clings to it, entreating him to write to her. Robert agrees and leaves rather stiffly. Edna tries to hold back her tears and her feelings, but she is forced to recognize her feelings of...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis
Mademoiselle Reisz asks Edna if she misses Robert. In fact she misses him greatly and feels that her life has been dulled. She talks about him constantly and looks at old family pictures with Madame Lebrun. She wishes there were a recent picture for her to look at. Madame Lebrun shows her a letter Robert had written, and Edna feels jealous that he wrote to his mother rather than her.
Even Leonce assumes that Edna misses Robert. Leonce saw Robert in the city before he left for Mexico and Edna pesters him with questions. She does not find it at all “grotesque” that she is making so much of his absence; in fact, she does not think much about it at all and does not feel the need to voice her feelings.
Edna prefers to keep her thoughts and emotions to herself. She once told Adele that she would never sacrifice herself for her children, although she would give up her life. The two women argued about it, and Edna felt like they were speaking two different languages; Adele did not understand.
Nonetheless Edna answers Mademoiselle Reisz’s question honestly, if lightly. Then they chat about the Lebruns, and Mademoiselle Reisz has nasty things to say about both Madame Lebrun and Victor. Edna feels depressed by Mademoiselle Reisz’s venom and leaves her to go bathing, although she had not planned to. She swims for a long time, feeling thrilled and invigorated. She hopes that Mademoiselle Reisz won’t wait...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis
The story has now moved to New Orleans. There is a description of the Pontelliers’ house on Esplanade Street, which is very beautiful and luxurious. Leonce is very fond of walking around the house and taking pleasure in his possessions.
Since her wedding six years earlier, Tuesday has been a reception day for Edna. There is a constant stream of female callers all afternoon, and sometimes at night the men would join their wives. One Tuesday night at dinner, several weeks after their return to the city, Leonce notices that Edna is not in her reception dress but is wearing an ordinary housedress. Edna tells him she went out for the day and thus was not home to receive the callers.
Leonce reprimands her, reminding her that they have to observe convention. Then he asks to see the cards that were left, so he would know who called. He begins to read the names aloud, commenting on each one as he reads. He is upset when one of the ladies’ husbands is a wealthy man whom he is afraid to snub. Edna gets angry, and Leonce, saying the food is a disaster and claiming it is Edna’s fault for not looking after the cook, leaves to eat at the club. Although this scene was not unfamiliar, Edna’s reaction is. She sits and eats her dinner by herself and then goes up to her room, still not bothering with the cook.
When Edna gets to her room, she stands by the open window to look at the garden below, which seems full...
(The entire section is 568 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary and Analysis
The next morning Leonce asks Edna to meet him in the city to go shopping; she does not want to go shopping. He notes that Edna is not looking well; she is pale and very quiet. Edna watches him leave and watches the children playing. She feels no interest in anything around her. In fact she feels the outside world, including her children, has suddenly become alien and antagonistic.
Although Edna criticizes most of her sketches, she gathers up some of them and leaves the house to go visit Adele. She is thinking about Robert, feeling an “incomprehensible longing.”
The Ratignolles live not far from the Pontelliers, in spacious apartments over Monsieur Ratignolle’s drugstore. Every two weeks the Ratignolles give a musical party, and they were very popular. Edna considers their lifestyle to be very French and very foreign.
Adele looks more beautiful than ever, and Edna hopes she might someday paint her. She shows Adele her sketches. She knows her opinions are valueless but wants to hear the encouragement. Adele, of course, praises them highly and even shows them off to her husband when he comes in for his midday lunch. Monsieur Ratignolle is a good man, and he and Adele have a close relationship where they understand each other perfectly. When he speaks, Adele listens attentively, even laying down her fork so as to listen better.
Edna feels a little depressed after leaving them, finding...
(The entire section is 558 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary and Analysis
Edna realizes that her outburst with the ring and vase had been childish and futile. Instead she begins to do and feel exactly as she pleases, including more painting. She completely abandons her Tuesday receptions and makes no efforts toward running the household. Leonce, who had always been courteous as long as Edna had been submissive, now grows angry at her insolence. He compares her to Adele, who keeps up with her music but also with all her responsibilities. Edna tells him to leave her alone, and he does. However he wonders if Edna is growing mentally unbalanced. He cannot see that she is actually becoming her true self.
Edna goes to her atelier at the top of the house to paint. She is working a lot, using everyone in the house as models. However none of her work satisfies her. Sometimes as she works she sings the song Robert had sung to her, and she would feel desire sweeping through her.
There are days when she is very happy, especially when she is alone and able to dream. There are also days when she is very unhappy and despairing, and she cannot work on those days.
Discussion and Analysis
Edna realizes the futility of her temper tantrums and finds a better way to express her displeasure with Leonce and her desires for herself; she will simply abandon her pretense of being a good wife and do exactly as she pleases.
Leonce, as earlier described, was a good...
(The entire section is 533 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary and Analysis
Edna decides to visit Mademoiselle Reisz, despite the bad feeling she had gotten from their last conversation. She feels the need to hear her play the piano. Unfortunately, Mademoiselle Reisz has moved, and Edna has some trouble locating her. She decides to go to the Lebruns to ask Madame Lebrun. Victor answers the door, and after having an argument with his servant, he sends her to fetch Madame Lebrun.
Edna waits on the porch, and Victor sits down with her and amuses her with a story about a woman he had met the night before. Mrs. Lebrun comes out just as Victor is about to get into sordid details. She sends Victor in to get two letters from Robert to read to Edna. The letters are about his life in Mexico with no mention of Edna. She begins to feel despondent again and asks Madame Lebrun for Mademoiselle Reisz’s address.
As she leaves, Edna banters a bit with Victor again and then regrets it, thinking she should have been more dignified and reserved. Mrs. Lebrun comments on how well she looks, and Victor notes that she seems like a different woman.
Discussion and Analysis
Edna needs to see Mademoiselle Reisz, because she gives Edna inspiration and stirs her to feel passion, both of which Edna needs to keep going. Unfortunately she has a hard time finding her. Again we hear how unpleasant and unpopular Mademoiselle Reisz is, and this is because she is an artist who does not...
(The entire section is 452 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis
Mademoiselle Reisz lives in an apartment under the roof with open windows that let in soot and dirt along with the light and air. Everything is fairly dingy except for a “magnificent piano” that crowds the apartment.
Mademoiselle Reisz is glad to see Edna and expresses her surprise that Edna has actually come. As Mademoiselle Reisz pours coffee for them, she tells Edna she has a letter from Robert in which he writes of nothing but Edna. Edna asks to see it, but Mademoiselle Reisz refuses at first. Edna asks her to play the piano and tells her she has been painting, that she is becoming an artist. Mademoiselle Reisz replies that one must have more than talent to be a true artist; she said one must have a “courageous soul.”
Mademoiselle Reisz finally agrees to let Edna see the letter, and she plays love songs on the piano while Edna reads. Edna begins to cry, just like the time Mademoiselle Reisz played at Grand Isle. When she leaves, she asks if she can come again.
Discussion and Analysis
Mademoiselle Reisz’s apartment, like her, is old and dingy and unkempt. However in the center of the apartment, crowding everything else, is a magnificent piano. True to her calling, nothing is important except her music.
Mademoiselle Reisz is pleased with Edna’s honesty. There was a time when Edna would not have been so honest, but now she is not so afraid. It is part of...
(The entire section is 388 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary and Analysis
Dr. Mandelet: good doctor who tries to help Edna
One morning Leonce decides to visit Dr. Mandelet, the family physician. He wants to talk about Edna, explaining that she is acting odd. He says that her whole attitude has changed and hints that they were no longer having sex. Dr. Mandelet inquires if Edna is spending time with a certain group of pseudointellectual women. Leonce explains that she has been isolated, not spending time with anyone. At this Dr. Mandelet grows concerned. Leonce tells him about Edna’s sister’s upcoming wedding and how Edna refuses to attend.
Dr. Mandelet advises Leonce to let Edna alone for a while, assuring him that this peculiarity would pass. He also agrees to come for dinner so he can observe Edna firsthand.
When Leonce leaves, Dr. Mandelet wonders to himself if there is another man in the picture.
Discussion and Analysis
Dr. Mandelet is clearly a wise man. He is “known more for his wisdom than his skill,” and his eyes “had lost none of their penetration.” However, he is still a man of his time and can understand only so much about Edna’s awakening. When Leonce first explained Edna’s strangeness, including that she refused to sleep with him, Dr. Mandelet thought she was mixed up with a group of “pseudointellectual women.” It is only when Leonce tells him that Edna has been...
(The entire section is 304 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary and Analysis
Alcee Arobin: a young man-about-town with whom Edna has an affair
The Highcamps and the Merrimans: society people who are social friends of Edna’s
The Colonel: Edna’s father
Edna’s father is in the city to purchase a wedding gift for Edna’s sister Janet. He is a retired colonel and still has his military bearing. Edna and her father are not very close but are companionable. He sits still for a sketch, happy to sit rigidly for hours.
Edna takes her father to a party at the Ratignolles’ where Adele flirts with him. Edna notes that she is unable to do that. Leonce does not attend these parties; he prefers to be at the club. Adele expresses disapproval of this, but Edna is happy that they don’t spend much time together. She wonders what they would talk about if they did.
One afternoon Edna and her father go to the racetrack, and win, and that is the main topic of conversation at dinner. At the track, they had met Mrs. Merriman, Mrs. Highcamp, and Alcee Arobin. Leonce, of course, disapproves of gambling. After dinner everyone tells stories. Edna tells one about a woman who had paddled away with a lover one night and never returned.
Dr. Mandelet is at dinner that night observing Edna, and he thinks Edna seems radiant. He notices a subtle change in her, a liveliness he had not seen before.
(The entire section is 481 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary and Analysis
Edna and her father have a fight over Edna’s refusal to attend her sister’s wedding. Leonce, on Dr. Mandelet’s advice, stays out of it, but he plans to go himself to atone for Edna. Edna’s father disapproves of the way Leonce is handling the situation. He advises him to put his foot down, asserting that “authority and coercion” were necessary to handle a wife. Even Leonce realizes that the Colonel had probably coerced his own wife into an early grave. Edna is very glad when he leaves.
Just before Leonce leaves for New York shortly thereafter, Edna grows affectionate and feels she will miss him. The children leave, too, off to stay with their grandmother in the country. When Edna is finally alone, a “radiant peace” settles over her. She feels a new and “delicious” feeling. She walks through the house as if she is seeing it for the first time. She enjoys a solitary dinner and then reads Emerson in the library until she grows sleepy. When she finally snuggles beneath her covers, she feels a restfulness she had not known before.
Discussion and Analysis
In the preceding chapter, we learned a bit about Edna’s father. Now we learn something about her mother. When the Colonel advises Leonce that “authority and coercion” are needed to manage a wife, we are told that the Colonel was “perhaps unaware that he had coerced his own wife into her grave.” This could mean either...
(The entire section is 401 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary and Analysis
Edna cannot work when it is dark and cloudy; she needs the sunlight to inspire her. On rainy days she goes out to see friends or sits home alone feeling as if her life is passing her by.
She begins frequenting the racetrack. One afternoon, Mrs. Highcamp and Alcee Arobin invited her to the track. She plays for very high stakes and wins; she feels intoxicated.
After dinner at the Highcamps, Alcee drives Edna home, and she agrees to go to the races with him again. After Alcee leaves, Edna feels hungry, restless, and excited. She wants something exciting to happen and regrets she did not ask Alcee to stay and talk for a while.
A few days later Alcee calls on Edna to go to the races, and this time they go alone. She feels excited again and becomes easily intimate with Alcee, who is good at initiating such intimacy. He stays for dinner, and afterward they sit by the fire. He shows Edna a scar on his wrist, and she touches his hand as she looks at it. Then she jumps up and walks away, agitated.
Alcee walks back over to her, and she feels an awakening sensuousness as she looks at him. He sees it and feels emboldened to take her hand when he says goodnight.
However, when Alcee asks if she will go to the races again, she says no and tells him to leave, saying that she doesn’t like him; they both know she is lying. He kisses her hand, and she explains that she was excited from the track...
(The entire section is 565 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary and Analysis
Alcee writes Edna a note of apology, and Edna feels silly for having made a fuss over a kiss on the hand. Soon they are spending time together again, growing closer and more intimate. Sometimes he talks in a way that makes her blush, but after a while she enjoys it; there is something in her that responds to it.
When Edna needs a lift, she visits Mademoiselle Reisz; her music “seemed to reach Edna’s spirit and set it free.” Upon arriving at Mademoiselle Reisz’s apartment, Edna informs her that she is moving out of her house to a smaller one around the corner. When pressed for a reason, Edna says it is because she wants a place of her own. She has her own money now because of her winnings at the track and from sales of her paintings. She has resolved never to “belong” to anyone again. Edna also tells Mademoiselle Reisz that she is giving a dinner party the night before she leaves the old house.
Mademoiselle Reisz gives another of Robert’s letters to Edna to read. She tells Edna that the reason he doesn’t write her is because he is in love with her and is trying to forget her because she is not free. Edna reads as Mademoiselle Reisz’s music brightens her soul, “preparing her for joy and exultation”; the letter says Robert is coming home soon.
Edna finally admits to Mademoiselle Reisz that she is in love with Robert, although she can’t explain why. She feels suddenly happy,...
(The entire section is 597 words.)
Chapters 27 and 28 Summary and Analysis
That evening, in Chapter XXVII, Alcee says he has never seen Edna in such a good mood. He sits close to her, letting his fingers lightly touch her hair, which she enjoys. Then she tells Alcee she needs to figure out what kind of woman she is; she feels wicked but doesn’t really think she is. Alcee responds that she needn’t think about it because he can tell her what kind of woman she is.
Then Edna recounts something Mademoiselle Reisz had said to her about how birds that want to soar above tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. Alcee responds that Mademois-elle Reisz must be demented, but Edna argues that she seems wonderfully sane to her.
Alcee notes that Edna’s thoughts seem far away, then leans over and kisses her on the lips. She clasps his head, holding his lips to hers. It is the first kiss of her life that arouses her.
Chapter XXVIII is the second narrative break of the novel. Chopin tells us that Edna cried a bit after Alcee left. She felt irresponsible, and she felt the reproaches of Leonce and Robert. However, she also felt that she understood the world a little better. She did not feel any shame or remorse, only regret that it was not the kiss of love that had inflamed her.
Discussion and Analysis
In Chapter XXVII, Edna knows that by society’s standards she is wicked because she is in love with another man and wants to leave her husband....
(The entire section is 524 words.)
Chapter 29 Summary and Analysis
Without waiting for an answer from Leonce regarding her decision to move, Edna hastens her plans. There is no thought involved, she just moves. She takes only what is hers. Alcee arrives in the afternoon, walking in unannounced, and finds Edna on a stepladder taking a picture off the wall. He then helps out. She tells him the dinner party will be two days later with the very finest of everything; she is going to let Leonce pay for it. She says goodbye to Alcee, and he is dismayed that he can’t see her again before the party.
Discussion and Analysis
Edna hastens her preparations to move out after spending the night with Alcee. She realizes now more than ever her need for independence. Now that she’s experienced such pleasure she wants to be able to continue, and she can’t do that in the old house. In fact the old house now seems forbidden, as if she had desecrated an altar.
Edna is determined to be completely independent, and so she takes nothing that belongs to Leonce. Her independence is underscored by Alcee’s reflection that she never looked more handsome. She is more masculine because she is freer.
Alcee continues to act in a proprietary manner. He walks in the house unannounced as if he lived there. Being such a womanizer, he probably expected Edna to be either tearful or ashamed. He has no idea who or what he’s dealing with.
Edna’s allowing Leonce to...
(The entire section is 273 words.)
Chapter 30 Summary and Analysis
Edna’s dinner party and its guests are described in detail. There are nine guests, and Edna seats herself between Alcee and Mademoiselle Reisz. The table is set lavishly, with satin, lace, silver, gold, and crystal. There are fresh red and yellow roses on the table.
The conversation is lively and loud, and the food is abundant. Mrs. Highcamp, seated next to Victor Lebrun, spends the evening trying to capture his attention.
Edna is dressed in satin and is wearing a diamond tiara, a birthday present from Leonce which had arrived that morning. Edna is 29 years old. Seated at the head of the table, her bearing is regal. Yet she feels her old ennui creeping in, and seeing Robert’s picture before her eyes, feels overwhelmed with helplessness.
Monsieur Ratignolle is the first to leave; Adele was at home, anxious about her impending birth. Mademoiselle Reisz goes with him.
Mrs. Highcamp begins increasing her attention to Victor, draping him first with a garland of roses and then a white scarf. Victor, a bit drunk from the wine and the attention, agrees to sing. However, the song he chooses was the one his brother Robert had sung to Edna on the boat. Edna shouts out for him to stop. In the process, she spills a glass of wine on Alcee and Mrs. Highcamp. Victor, unfortunately, doesn’t take her seriously at first, and Edna has to get up and cover his mouth with her hand. After this
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Chapter 31 Summary and Analysis
Celestine: the Pontelliers’ servant
After everyone leaves, Edna and Alcee lock up and leave for the new house. Celestine, the Pontelliers’ servant, is moving in with Edna into the new house but will go back and clean up at the old house in the morning. Edna is quiet and seems disheartened.
When they arrive at the new house, it feels homey and hospitable; Edna had been working on it already. It is also filled with flowers that Alcee had sent over earlier.
Edna tells Alcee that she feels tired and miserable and that she just wants to rest. She puts her head down on the table, and Alcee begins stroking her hair, then moves to her shoulders. Finally, he sits down and kisses her. When she says she thought he was leaving, he replies that he will after he says good night. However, he does not leave until after they make love.
Discussion and Analysis
Edna feels disheartened after her party, wanting nothing but to be alone (since Robert is not available). She is happy to go to her new house, which she has already made homey and hospitable. This is in direct contrast to the old house, which was telling her to go away.
Despite Edna’s stated intention to be alone, Alcee’s magnetic hands draw her in and she follows the desires of her body. It is as if she no longer cares, and for the moment, she is willing to settle for...
(The entire section is 270 words.)
Chapter 32 Summary and Analysis
Leonce, who is too late, sends word to Edna that he disapproves of her move, mainly because he is afraid that people will think their finances have taken a turn for the worse. He takes care of it in a businesslike manner, immediately planning reconstruction of the old house so that it will seem like they had no choice but to move.
Edna is very happy in her new home. She feels that although she may have descended the social scale, she has moved up on the spiritual scale and is able to see and understand things with her own eyes.
Edna goes to visit her children who are staying with Leonce’s mother on the farm. She weeps with joy to see them and truly enjoys their company for the whole week. When she leaves, she carries the sound of their voices all the way home. However, once she gets home, she forgets it, because she is alone again.
Discussion and Analysis
As always, Leonce’s concerns are financial, not personal. His only thought over Edna’s moving out is how it might affect his reputation and his business.
Edna enjoys her new home and feels as if she has grown spiritually. She is seeing the world with new eyes—with her own eyes—and she is thinking rather than blindly accepting. She is understanding things in a whole new way, gaining wisdom that most women never gain (see Chapter VI). Maybe she had to descend socially to do this because in her old social...
(The entire section is 401 words.)
Chapter 33 Summary and Analysis
One day, Edna sets out for Mademoiselle Reisz’s to rest and talk about Robert. She had a talk with Adele earlier in the day, and Adele had noted that Edna seemed to act without reflection—like a little child. She worried what people would think about Alcee’s visits. Then she made Edna promise that she would come when Adele gives birth.
Edna is waiting in Mademoiselle Reisz’s apartment for the lady to come home and begins to softly play the piano. There is a knock on the door, and Edna says to come in. It is Robert; he clasps her hand. Then Edna sits by the window, and Robert sits on the piano stool. He tells Edna he has been home for two days. She is very upset and wonders if he really loves her, as Mademoiselle Reisz had said. He stammers some excuse about why he hasn’t been to see her.
Edna sees in Robert’s eyes the same feelings that had always been there, but neither one say anything. He is surprised that Edna is not away with her husband or her children.
They leave together without waiting for Mademoiselle Reisz to return, and Edna asks him to stay for dinner. He tries to get out of it but ends up staying. At the house he sees a picture of Alcee and asks a lot of questions; he clearly disapproves of Edna spending time with him. Robert reports that he has been feeling like a lost soul; Edna echoes the feeling. Then they become silent and wait for Celestine to serve dinner.
(The entire section is 488 words.)
Chapter 34 Summary and Analysis
The dining room is small and intimate, but dinner makes them both more formal. They talk about what they have been doing since they last met. After dinner Robert goes out to get cigarette paper. Edna notices that his tobacco pouch is new, and Robert admits that a girl gave it to him. Edna asks him lots of jealous questions, but he says the woman wasn’t important.
Robert says Edna can throw him out any time, but Edna reminds him of all the time they spent together in Grand Isle. Robert responds that he remembers everything from Grand Isle.
Then Alcee drops in, and Robert takes that as a cue to leave. Edna tells Alcee to leave. Alcee does not want to leave but compiles with Edna’ request. After Alcee leaves, Edna falls into a stupor thinking about the hours she has just spent with Robert. She feels that they had actually been closer when he was still in Mexico.
Discussion and Analysis
Edna is desperately trying to win Robert over, and Robert is just as desperately trying to remain aloof, although he makes his feelings clear when he says, without looking at her, “I have forgotten nothing about Grand Isle.” Still he leaves at the first opportunity, which is when Alcee arrives.
Edna wants to be alone to think about Robert so she sends Alcee away. Alcee has always been a womanizer so it is ironic when he says to Edna of his stated devotion, “I have said it...
(The entire section is 345 words.)
Chapter 35 Summary and Analysis
Edna wakes up filled with hope. She believes that Robert’s love for her will surmount his reserve, whatever his reasons for it. She imagines him coming over that evening.
She receives letters from her children and from Leonce. Leonce writes that when he comes back they would take a trip abroad, as he had recently made a lot of money on Wall Street. She also receives a letter from Alcee saying good morning and assuring her of his devotion.
Edna writes back to the children and to Leonce. In Leonce’s letter she is evasive, not on purpose, but because she had lost a sense of reality. She feels she has abandoned herself to Fate. She does not answer Alcee’s letter.
Robert does not come that day, and Edna is very disappointed. Nor does he come either of the next two days. She would awake with hope and go to sleep despondent. However she does not seek him out; in fact she avoids places where he might be.
She goes out with Alcee one night, and they come back to Edna’s to eat. It is late when he leaves. Since their relationship has become sexual, it has become a habit for him to spend time with her. That night she does not feel despondent when she goes to sleep, but neither does she wake up with any hope.
Discussion and Analysis
Edna has completely lost sight of reality in the beginning of this chapter. She wakes up filled with hope and sees before her no...
(The entire section is 334 words.)
Chapter 36 Summary and Analysis
When Edna is out walking, she often stops in a small quiet garden in the suburbs, where the proprietress sells and serves excellent food. It is not a place that is known to many people, and she never expects to see anyone she knows.
One afternoon, when she is eating dinner there, Robert walks in; he is uneasy and embarrassed when he sees Edna. Edna had intended to be reserved if she saw Robert but her reserve melts when she sees him. She asks him why he is staying away from her. Robert becomes almost angry and begs her to leave him alone.
Edna tells him he is selfish, not caring how she feels. Robert replies that she is being cruel, trying to force him into a disclosure that will result in nothing for him. They chat a bit about impersonal things; Robert tells Edna the end of the book she is reading so she won’t have to finish it.
When they are finished, Robert walks Edna home. She goes into her room to wash up, and when she comes back to the living room, Robert is leaning back in a chair as if in a reverie. She leans over and kisses him, then moves away. Robert follows her and takes her in his arms. She touches his face with love and tenderness, and they kiss again.
Robert finally admits that he loves her. He says he has been fighting it because she was not free, but he had been dreaming of marrying her and that Leonce would set her free. Edna kisses him again and tells him he is being...
(The entire section is 644 words.)
Chapter 37 Summary and Analysis
Edna arrives at the Ratignolles and finds Adele on a sofa in the salon, clearly in pain. She is berating Dr. Mandelet to her servant for being late. She is getting a little hysterical.
Finally Dr. Mandelet arrives, and Adele goes into her room. Edna stays with her, but she feels uneasy. She is recalling her own experiences with a feeling of dread. She begins to wish she had not come, but she stays. Although she is in agony, she stays to witness the birth that she considers a torture.
She is stunned and speechless when she says goodbye to Adele later. Adele is exhausted but whispers to Edna to think of her children.
Discussion and Analysis
Adele is in obvious pain; her beautiful face is drawn and pinched, and her eyes are haggard and unnatural. We are clearly not supposed to look on this as a pleasant experience.
Edna begins to feel uneasy and afraid. There is a part of her that knows this childbirth will have some major impact on her. She doesn’t remember much about her own childbirths because she was a different woman then. She remembers the stupor, which we know means that she felt hopeless and powerless when she gave birth.
Edna was in agony watching what she considered to be a scene of torture; she has deep resentment against Mother Nature for forcing women to bear children.
The last words Adele says to Edna are a plea to think of her...
(The entire section is 284 words.)
Chapter 38 Summary and Analysis
When Edna gets outside, she still feels dazed. Dr. Mandelet offers her a ride home, but she says she wants to walk. Dr. Mandelet decides to walk her home. He tells her that she shouldn’t have been with Adele.
Edna responds that Adele was right, that she has to think of the children some time, preferably sooner than later. She tells Dr. Mandelet, in response to his question, that she will not be going abroad with Leonce when he returns. She tells him she just wants to be left alone and that nobody has the right to force her to do things, except children, maybe.
Dr. Mandelet seems to understand her. He says that youth is given to illusions, the illusions being the way to trap women into motherhood no matter what the consequences.
Edna agrees with Dr. Mandelet. She says her life had been a dream, but now she has awakened. She hints that she doesn’t like what she found but thinks it is still probably better to wake up than to live with illusion all her life.
Dr. Mandelet offers his help if Edna feels like confiding in him, but she declines. She says the only thing she wants is her own way, which she realizes could cause pain to others. She also says she doesn’t want to hurt her children.
When Edna returns home, she sits outside for a while, remembering her scene with Robert before she was called away. She acknowledges that tomorrow she will have to think of the children, but...
(The entire section is 625 words.)
Chapter 39 Summary and Analysis
Back in Grand Isle, Victor is working and Mariequita is watching him. He is talking about the dinner at Edna’s exaggerating every detail. Mariequita thinks he is in love with Edna, and she becomes jealous and sullen but then lets Victor reassure her.
To their surprise Edna appears before them, looking tired from her trip. She tells them she is just here for a rest and that any room will do. Then she asks what time dinner would be served.
Edna tells them her intention to go to the beach and take a swim. They warn her that the water is too cold, but she says she would dip her toes at least.
Edna walks down to the beach without thinking about anything in particular. She had thought all night, long after Robert left. She acknowledges that after Alcee she would find another lover, and she understood how this would affect Raoul and Etienne. She also understood clearly what she meant the day she told Adele she would never sacrifice herself for her children.
Edna became filled with despondence, realizing there was nothing and nobody she wanted except for Robert. Shealso realized that one day even that thought would fade, and she would be totally alone. Her children appeared before her like antagonists who were trying to enslave her, but she knew how to elude them.
All these things Edna thought about during her night on the couch. She isn’t thinking of anything on her way to the...
(The entire section is 834 words.)