Chapter 20 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 452

Edna decides to visit Mademoiselle Reisz, despite the bad feeling she had gotten from their last conversation. She feels the need to hear her play the piano. Unfortunately, Mademoiselle Reisz has moved, and Edna has some trouble locating her. She decides to go to the Lebruns to ask Madame Lebrun. Victor answers the door, and after having an argument with his servant, he sends her to fetch Madame Lebrun.

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Edna waits on the porch, and Victor sits down with her and amuses her with a story about a woman he had met the night before. Mrs. Lebrun comes out just as Victor is about to get into sordid details. She sends Victor in to get two letters from Robert to read to Edna. The letters are about his life in Mexico with no mention of Edna. She begins to feel despondent again and asks Madame Lebrun for Mademoiselle Reisz’s address.

As she leaves, Edna banters a bit with Victor again and then regrets it, thinking she should have been more dignified and reserved. Mrs. Lebrun comments on how well she looks, and Victor notes that she seems like a different woman.

Discussion and Analysis
Edna needs to see Mademoiselle Reisz, because she gives Edna inspiration and stirs her to feel passion, both of which Edna needs to keep going. Unfortunately she has a hard time finding her. Again we hear how unpleasant and unpopular Mademoiselle Reisz is, and this is because she is an artist who does not conform to society’s rules and dictates. Her worst crime is that she is unmarried and childless. Adele naturally doesn’t like her, because she is the polar opposite of Adele, who strictly conforms to society’s standards and lives only for and through her family.

Victor’s attitude is typical of his time. He can’t tell Edna about his presumably raunchy adventures of the evening before because she is a woman and wouldn’t understand. However, Edna has come a long way from the woman who blushed when Robert spoke of Adele’s pregnancy. Her awakening sexuality and passion has taken over her inborn prudery, and she is interested and amused by Victor’s story.

Edna begins to feel good until she reads Robert’s letters, which make no mention of her. Then the feeling of despondency takes over, and she is reminded of her need to see Mademoiselle Reisz. Before she leaves, she banters with Victor again, before remembering that the proper thing would have been to look disapproving. But she is beyond such artifice and can respond only naturally now. Victor notices the change. He remarks that in “some way she doesn’t seem like the same woman.”

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Chapter 19 Summary and Analysis


Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis