In chapter thirty of The Awakening, Kate Chopin describes the lavish decor and food; however, midway through the dinner Edna is overcome with a feeling of hopelessness. What is the cause of Edna's...

In chapter thirty of The Awakening, Kate Chopin describes the lavish decor and food; however, midway through the dinner Edna is overcome with a feeling of hopelessness. What is the cause of Edna's morose feelings?  

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The setting of chapter thirty of Kate Chopin's The Awakening is, indeed, a lavish and glorious dinner party. It is a celebration, and everything should have been as grand and as satisfying as she had hoped. In fact, however, it was ultimately a disappointing affair for Edna.

The setting for the evening was impeccable. Everything was gorgeous and sparkling and radiant, just as she had planned. Edna was equally gorgeous, dressed in her finest and wearing some new diamonds her husband had sent her. Even the cocktails were so beautiful that one of her guests asked if she could just look at hers for a while before drinking it.

Edna had invited eleven guests, but only nine were able to come. Two of her guests begin to converse in French, something Edna thinks is "a little rude, under the circumstances, but characteristic." The women has nothing but negative things to say about the musicians and music coming out of New Orleans,but that, too, is typical. 

Another guest tries to tell a story; however, his wife will never let him finish his stories because they are "always lame and lacking point." She interrupts him to ask a question about a conversation she is having with another guest. Someone else listens to the rest of the man's stories and pretends to appreciate it with false laughter. Another woman is vying for the attention of her table neighbor who is busy giving his attention to someone else.

None of this is bothersome or worrisome to Edna; in fact, it is a familiar and comfortable environment for her. But 

[t]here was something in her attitude, in her whole appearance when she leaned her head against the high-backed chair and spread her arms, which suggested the regal woman, the one who rules, who looks on, who stands alone.

But as she sat there amid her guests, she felt the old ennui overtaking her; the hopelessness which so often assailed her, which came upon her like an obsession, like something extraneous, independent of volition. It was something which announced itself; a chill breath that seemed to issue from some vast cavern wherein discords waited. There came over her the acute longing which always summoned into her spiritual vision the presence of the beloved one, overpowering her at once with a sense of the unattainable.

So, in the midst of this elegant party which was exactly what she had envisioned, Edna feels hopelessly alone because she misses Robert. When Victor begins to sing, the song reminds Edna even more of Robert, and she has to stop him. Edna also watches Mrs. Highcamp act in a rather embarrassingly flirtatious way to the rather inebriated (and much younger) Victor and has a vision of herself acting the same way with Robert. It is a depressing thought.

Edna's longing for Robert coupled with this image of what she might become if he were here is enough to send Edna into a spiraling sense of hopelessness. Despite that, she is still a sensual woman and is not unmoved by the press of Victor's lips on her palm when she covers his mouth to keep him from singing. This is the crux of Edna's dilemma: what her mind knows is foolish is exactly what her body and heart tell her she desires above all else. The inevitable result is loneliness and hopelessness.

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