Chapter 19 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 533

Summary
Edna realizes that her outburst with the ring and vase had been childish and futile. Instead she begins to do and feel exactly as she pleases, including more painting. She completely abandons her Tuesday receptions and makes no efforts toward running the household. Leonce, who had always been courteous as long as Edna had been submissive, now grows angry at her insolence. He compares her to Adele, who keeps up with her music but also with all her responsibilities. Edna tells him to leave her alone, and he does. However he wonders if Edna is growing mentally unbalanced. He cannot see that she is actually becoming her true self.

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Edna goes to her atelier at the top of the house to paint. She is working a lot, using everyone in the house as models. However none of her work satisfies her. Sometimes as she works she sings the song Robert had sung to her, and she would feel desire sweeping through her.

There are days when she is very happy, especially when she is alone and able to dream. There are also days when she is very unhappy and despairing, and she cannot work on those days.

Discussion and Analysis
Edna realizes the futility of her temper tantrums and finds a better way to express her displeasure with Leonce and her desires for herself; she will simply abandon her pretense of being a good wife and do exactly as she pleases.

Leonce, as earlier described, was a good husband by societal standards. We find out here that he was courteous only because Edna was submissive. Now that she is defying him he becomes angry and rude. However, this only serves to strengthen Edna’s resolve.

Leonce doesn’t understand Edna’s need to be alone in her atelier painting. He doesn’t equate it with his constant need to escape to the club because only he is allowed to have such needs. He believes all of Edna’s time should be spent on the advancement of her family’s welfare. He wants her to be more like Adele, who plays music only for her family to enjoy, not out of any thought for her own pleasure.

Leonce thinks that Edna is not herself; he does not realize that she never had a self to be before. It is only now that she is developing a sense of self, and it is threatening to him. Chopin’s language is a romantic image of rebirth. Edna is “daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.” The “casting aside” brings to mind the shedding of old skin. Edna is crawling out of her cocoon and turning into a butterfly; Leonce wants to clip her wings.

Whenever Edna thinks of Robert, Chopin’s language becomes romantic and sensual. Edna hears the “ripple of the water,” sees the “glint of the moon on the bay,” and feels the “soft gusty beating of the hot south wind.”

Edna likes to be alone, where she can dream. It is important to her awakening that she is away from the realities of life enough to keep her hope alive.

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Chapter 18 Summary and Analysis

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Chapter 20 Summary and Analysis