Describe the interactions between Leonce and Edna in chapter 17 of The Awakening.  What can we conclude about the state of their marriage?

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In this scene, when Leonce and Edna meet at dinner, they do not appear to be close at all. It becomes clear that they have very different priorities and interests. Leonce seems overwhelmingly occupied with keeping up appearances in society and meeting with respectable people in the neighbourhood. Edna - certainly by this stage - does not care for such things at all. This is evident in the way that she refused to stay home on the day when she was supposed to be home to receive visitors. She has observed this social ritual in the past, but now she doesn't care about it. She wants to entertain herself instead. Her individual needs matter more to her now than social propriety. Leonce, however, is quite unable to comprehend this and reproaches her for upsetting the neighbours.

Leonce also makes a fuss about material things.  He is dismayed to find the soup and other courses not at all to his taste, but, again, Edna couldn't care less. She goes on eating her soup as though nothing is wrong. Leonce insists on proper domestic arrangements, like having a good cook, but Edna responds 'indifferently' to such complaints.

Edna is now concerned more with matters of the spirit rather than with material comforts. In this respect she and Leonce have become entirely estranged. He bestows loving care on their many splendid possessions:

 Mr. Pontellier was very fond of walking about his house examining its various appointments and details, to see that nothing was amiss. He greatly valued his possessions, chiefly because they were his, and derived genuine pleasure from contemplating a painting, a statuette, a rare lace curtain -- no matter what -- after he had bought it and placed it among his household gods.

Leonce, then, takes great pride in the material trappings of his home. In stark contrast, at the end of this chapter his wife smashes a valuable glass vase because 'she wanted to destroy something'. This shows how frustrated she is at her life with Leonce. Leonce also shows his dissatisfaction by leaving abruptly to have dinner at his club. Their marriage, in short, has broken down.

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