Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 558
The next morning Leonce asks Edna to meet him in the city to go shopping; she does not want to go shopping. He notes that Edna is not looking well; she is pale and very quiet. Edna watches him leave and watches the children playing. She feels no interest in anything around her. In fact she feels the outside world, including her children, has suddenly become alien and antagonistic.
Although Edna criticizes most of her sketches, she gathers up some of them and leaves the house to go visit Adele. She is thinking about Robert, feeling an “incomprehensible longing.”
The Ratignolles live not far from the Pontelliers, in spacious apartments over Monsieur Ratignolle’s drugstore. Every two weeks the Ratignolles give a musical party, and they were very popular. Edna considers their lifestyle to be very French and very foreign.
Adele looks more beautiful than ever, and Edna hopes she might someday paint her. She shows Adele her sketches. She knows her opinions are valueless but wants to hear the encouragement. Adele, of course, praises them highly and even shows them off to her husband when he comes in for his midday lunch. Monsieur Ratignolle is a good man, and he and Adele have a close relationship where they understand each other perfectly. When he speaks, Adele listens attentively, even laying down her fork so as to listen better.
Edna feels a little depressed after leaving them, finding nothing worthwhile in their domestic harmony. She feels some pity for Adele, who would never know a moment of anguish, never have a taste of “life’s delirium.”
Discussion and Analysis
Edna, immersed in her defeat of the night before, feels hopeless and depressed. Her home does not interest her, and her children become antagonists who are trying to enslave her. They have become antagonists because if it were not for them, she could leave.
Edna tries to forget Robert, but she cannot. She is “under a spell,” continuing the mystical and fairy tale terminology. Whenever she thinks of him, she feels an “incomprehensible” longing; it is incomprehensible to her because she has never felt anything like it before.
Edna has no confidence in herself as an artist; after all, wives and mothers cannot be artists. She goes to Adele’s for encouragement and validation even though she knows Adele’s opinion is worthless. Edna’s awakening to beauty is shown here in her response to Adele, who looks “more beautiful than ever.” She looks so beautiful that Edna wanted to paint her.
The narrator tells us that the Ratignolles understand each other perfectly and have fused into one being. This is supposed to be the goal of marriage. However, we know that the reason they have fused is because Adele has given up her identity. Even here she listens attentively to him, putting down her fork so as to listen better. We don’t hear anything about him listening to her.
Witnessing this domestic bliss leaves Edna depressed and sad for Adele. Adele will never know the highs and lows of life, which Edna believes are signs that one is truly alive. Although she says she is not sure what she means by “life’s delirium,” it seems to be the fusion of true love with sexual passion. Adele’s life is one of “blind contentment,” not passion.
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