Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 527

Mademoiselle Reisz asks Edna if she misses Robert. In fact she misses him greatly and feels that her life has been dulled. She talks about him constantly and looks at old family pictures with Madame Lebrun. She wishes there were a recent picture for her to look at. Madame Lebrun shows her a letter Robert had written, and Edna feels jealous that he wrote to his mother rather than her.

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Even Leonce assumes that Edna misses Robert. Leonce saw Robert in the city before he left for Mexico and Edna pesters him with questions. She does not find it at all “grotesque” that she is making so much of his absence; in fact, she does not think much about it at all and does not feel the need to voice her feelings.

Edna prefers to keep her thoughts and emotions to herself. She once told Adele that she would never sacrifice herself for her children, although she would give up her life. The two women argued about it, and Edna felt like they were speaking two different languages; Adele did not understand.

Nonetheless Edna answers Mademoiselle Reisz’s question honestly, if lightly. Then they chat about the Lebruns, and Mademoiselle Reisz has nasty things to say about both Madame Lebrun and Victor. Edna feels depressed by Mademoiselle Reisz’s venom and leaves her to go bathing, although she had not planned to. She swims for a long time, feeling thrilled and invigorated. She hopes that Mademoiselle Reisz won’t wait for her, but she does. Mademoiselle Reisz gives Edna her city address and invites her to come visit as the summer is nearly over, and they will both be leaving Grand Isle within the next two weeks.

Discussion and Analysis
Edna says that swimming is the only pleasure she has. This is because when she is swimming she feels powerful, like she is in control of her body and soul. The rest of the time she feels the reality of her constraint and the reality of Robert’s absence. Swimming is also a sensuous experience for Edna, as she feels a longing for Robert.

Edna feels jealous that Robert wrote to his mother rather than her. This shows the immaturity and the intensity of her feelings. The fact that everybody assumes she misses him shows how nobody, including Leonce, takes the relationship seriously—nobody but Robert and Edna, and Edna doesn’t even realize how seriously she takes it.

Adele does not understand Edna’s statement that she would die for her children but would never sacrifice herself, which brings back a theme from the parrot in the first chapter. As long as Edna mimics everyone else, she can get along and be understood. As soon as she starts becoming her own person, she is suddenly speaking a different language that only she understands. Thus, it is clear right here that Edna cannot have her awakening and continue to live in her old world.

Edna gets depressed by Mademoiselle Reisz’s mean talk, but she is drawn to her nonetheless, because she is an artist and stirs the passion in Edna that Edna longs to feel.

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