Edna's great realization is that she is not satisfied with her life as a wife and mother. Victorian society demands that women are meant to live their lives in these roles, and if a woman never attains them, they are destined to be unhappy. And yet, Edna is unhappy: she is married to a man she does not love, and while she cares about her sons, she does not relish maternal duties and is even accused of not caring for her children enough by her husband. Unlike her friend Adèle, Edna does not enjoy domestic life and yearns for something else.
After falling in love with Robert Lebrun, Edna comes to realize what actually does make her happy. She enjoys time alone when she can paint. She is a sensual woman who enjoys physical love and good food. She prefers living on her own in a bungalow to being the traditional domestic woman of the house. For a while, Edna lives the life of an independent artist, but her nonconformity isolates her from her former life and society itself. When her beloved Robert at last rejects her love as well, she is unable to cope with her loneliness and returns to the waters by Grand Isle, swimming until she drowns.