Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis
Mademoiselle Reisz lives in an apartment under the roof with open windows that let in soot and dirt along with the light and air. Everything is fairly dingy except for a “magnificent piano” that crowds the apartment.
Mademoiselle Reisz is glad to see Edna and expresses her surprise that Edna has actually come. As Mademoiselle Reisz pours coffee for them, she tells Edna she has a letter from Robert in which he writes of nothing but Edna. Edna asks to see it, but Mademoiselle Reisz refuses at first. Edna asks her to play the piano and tells her she has been painting, that she is becoming an artist. Mademoiselle Reisz replies that one must have more than talent to be a true artist; she said one must have a “courageous soul.”
Mademoiselle Reisz finally agrees to let Edna see the letter, and she plays love songs on the piano while Edna reads. Edna begins to cry, just like the time Mademoiselle Reisz played at Grand Isle. When she leaves, she asks if she can come again.
Discussion and Analysis
Mademoiselle Reisz’s apartment, like her, is old and dingy and unkempt. However in the center of the apartment, crowding everything else, is a magnificent piano. True to her calling, nothing is important except her music.
Mademoiselle Reisz is pleased with Edna’s honesty. There was a time when Edna would not have been so honest, but now she is not so afraid. It is part of her awakening, and in Mademoiselle Reisz’s eyes, it is imperative if Edna is to become an artist.
When Edna tells Mademoiselle Reisz that she is becoming an artist, Mademoiselle Reisz is skeptical. She tells Edna that an artist must have a “courageous soul,” one that is not afraid to defy convention. This Mademoiselle Reisz clearly has, and Adele clearly has not. Edna is beginning to develop a courageous soul but will never go so far as Mademoiselle Reisz.
Chopin again uses music and mysticism to set a romantic mood for Edna to read Robert’s letter. Mademoiselle Reisz’s music ranges from “quivering love notes” to “soulful and poignant longing.” Then it becomes “strange and fantastic,” spilling out from the deeply shadowed apartment up to the sky. Just as she did that night at Grand Isle, Edna bursts into tears.