Mademoiselle Reisz is a foil for Madame Ratignolle in Kate Chopin's famous 1899 novel, The Awakening. Mademoiselle Reisz, whom the protagonist Edna first encounters in Chapter 9, is, for one thing, a mademoiselle. She is unmarried and devotes herself entirely to the arts, specifically to the art of music. She is an accomplished pianist, whom Edna encounters in one of the cottages where Edna is staying with her lover, Robert. After Robert summons Reisz, it is explained that "she was a homely woman, with a small weazened face and body and eyes that glowed. She had absolutely no taste in dress, and wore a batch of rusty black lace with a bunch of artificial violets pinned to the side of her hair." Then, Mademoiselle Reisz' piano playing transforms Edna. At first, Edna expects that Mademoiselle would resent her looks or her solitude; however, she realizes after seeing Reisz play that:
[Edna] saw no pictures of solitude, of hope, of longing, or of despair. But the very passions themselves were aroused within her soul, swaying it, lashing it, as the waves daily beat upon her splendid body. She trembled, she was choking, and the tears blinded her.
Mademoiselle Reisz suggests to Edna—and the reader—that a woman does not need to conform to the traditional role of a wife and other. Moreover, if she devotes herself to other pursuits, she is capable of infinite virtuosity.