Chapter 17 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 568

The story has now moved to New Orleans. There is a description of the Pontelliers’ house on Esplanade Street, which is very beautiful and luxurious. Leonce is very fond of walking around the house and taking pleasure in his possessions.

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Since her wedding six years earlier, Tuesday has been a reception day for Edna. There is a constant stream of female callers all afternoon, and sometimes at night the men would join their wives. One Tuesday night at dinner, several weeks after their return to the city, Leonce notices that Edna is not in her reception dress but is wearing an ordinary housedress. Edna tells him she went out for the day and thus was not home to receive the callers.

Leonce reprimands her, reminding her that they have to observe convention. Then he asks to see the cards that were left, so he would know who called. He begins to read the names aloud, commenting on each one as he reads. He is upset when one of the ladies’ husbands is a wealthy man whom he is afraid to snub. Edna gets angry, and Leonce, saying the food is a disaster and claiming it is Edna’s fault for not looking after the cook, leaves to eat at the club. Although this scene was not unfamiliar, Edna’s reaction is. She sits and eats her dinner by herself and then goes up to her room, still not bothering with the cook.

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When Edna gets to her room, she stands by the open window to look at the garden below, which seems full of mystery. She contemplates that she is seeking and finding herself but feels devoid of hope. This makes her angry. She tears up the handkerchief in her hands and then throws her wedding ring down and stomps on it. Then she shatters a glass vase, feeling the need to destroy something.

A maid, hearing the noise, comes in and Edna explains that the vase had fallen. The maid picks up Edna’s ring and hands it to her. Edna slips it back on her finger.

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Latest answer posted October 14, 2020, 5:58 pm (UTC)

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Discussion and Analysis
We see again Leonce’s view of the world. It is based on finance and ownership. He likes to walk through his house examining his possessions, which he enjoys because they belong to him. Unfortunately, he includes Edna among his possessions.

Leonce cannot understand why Edna abandoned her Tuesday reception, but his concern is only economic. He is afraid Edna will snub someone who is important to him in the business world. He is not at all concerned with her personally.

After their little fight, Leonce leaves to have dinner at the club. It is his constant escape, and he goes there whenever things are not to his liking.

Edna responds differently to the fight than she used to. “Her eyes flamed with some inward fire,” and she finished her dinner alone and didn’t run to fix things with the cook. She is no longer running to please Leonce, no longer intimidated by his disapproval.

However the fight does leave her feeling hopeless, and this makes her angry. “She wanted to destroy something.” What she really wanted to destroy was her marriage, and in yet another attempted rebellion, she throws off her wedding ring and tries to crush it. In the end, however, she is defeated because she puts the ring back on her finger.

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Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis


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