Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 401
Edna and her father have a fight over Edna’s refusal to attend her sister’s wedding. Leonce, on Dr. Mandelet’s advice, stays out of it, but he plans to go himself to atone for Edna. Edna’s father disapproves of the way Leonce is handling the situation. He advises him to put his foot down, asserting that “authority and coercion” were necessary to handle a wife. Even Leonce realizes that the Colonel had probably coerced his own wife into an early grave. Edna is very glad when he leaves.
Just before Leonce leaves for New York shortly thereafter, Edna grows affectionate and feels she will miss him. The children leave, too, off to stay with their grandmother in the country. When Edna is finally alone, a “radiant peace” settles over her. She feels a new and “delicious” feeling. She walks through the house as if she is seeing it for the first time. She enjoys a solitary dinner and then reads Emerson in the library until she grows sleepy. When she finally snuggles beneath her covers, she feels a restfulness she had not known before.
Discussion and Analysis
In the preceding chapter, we learned a bit about Edna’s father. Now we learn something about her mother. When the Colonel advises Leonce that “authority and coercion” are needed to manage a wife, we are told that the Colonel was “perhaps unaware that he had coerced his own wife into her grave.” This could mean either that she became sick and died or, more portentiously, maybe she committed suicide. In any event it becomes more and more clear what Edna has been up against all her life and how difficult her journey is.
Edna grew somewhat sentimental before Leonce left, acting like a true wife for a while. However, once he and the children were gone, she felt a “radiant peace” and a feeling of relief. She views her house as if for the first time. In a way it is the first time because she is a different person. She is looking at the house as if it were hers instead of Leonce’s, and therefore she is enjoying it.
As always, Edna enjoys her food. This is another sensual image: Edna’s constant satisfying of her physical appetite. It is also something that sets her apart from other women who usually pretend not to enjoy their food.
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