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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Chapter XVII of The Awakening marks the Pontelliers' return to New Orleans after their summer in Grand Isle. During the summer, Edna 's "awakening" has begun, as she starts feeling uneasy with the constraints of her life, namely of marriage. In this chapter, Edna openly defies her husband for the...

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Chapter XVII of The Awakening marks the Pontelliers' return to New Orleans after their summer in Grand Isle. During the summer, Edna's "awakening" has begun, as she starts feeling uneasy with the constraints of her life, namely of marriage. In this chapter, Edna openly defies her husband for the first time. The narrator describes the city routine of the Pontelliers by detailing when Leonce goes to work and what Edna is expected to do at home. When Leonce comes home for dinner, he notices that Edna is not in her usual attire: she "did not wear her usual Tuesday reception gown; she was in ordinary house dress." Leonce asks her if she is tired because she's had so many callers, and she replies, "I found their cards when I got home. I was out." This is, of course, exactly the opposite of what she is supposed to do, according to norms and conventions. Leonce is shocked and says he assumes she had a good excuse that she left for people, but the now irreverent Edna says, "I was out, that was all." This conflict leads to Leonce complaining over the soup and the cook's inability to make a decent meal, in a deflection of his true outrage over Edna's behavior. The couple fight over this seemingly insignificant detail but it masks the deeper issue: Edna's rebelling against society and her husband. After Leonce leaves Edna to go dine at the club, she throws her wedding ring and tries to destroy it, but unable to do so, she puts it back on her finger at the end of the chapter. This symbolizes that regardless of how much she rebels, she cannot break the social forces that oppress her.

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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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