Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 419
Edna’s dinner party and its guests are described in detail. There are nine guests, and Edna seats herself between Alcee and Mademoiselle Reisz. The table is set lavishly, with satin, lace, silver, gold, and crystal. There are fresh red and yellow roses on the table.
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The conversation is lively and loud, and the food is abundant. Mrs. Highcamp, seated next to Victor Lebrun, spends the evening trying to capture his attention.
Edna is dressed in satin and is wearing a diamond tiara, a birthday present from Leonce which had arrived that morning. Edna is 29 years old. Seated at the head of the table, her bearing is regal. Yet she feels her old ennui creeping in, and seeing Robert’s picture before her eyes, feels overwhelmed with helplessness.
Monsieur Ratignolle is the first to leave; Adele was at home, anxious about her impending birth. Mademoiselle Reisz goes with him.
Mrs. Highcamp begins increasing her attention to Victor, draping him first with a garland of roses and then a white scarf. Victor, a bit drunk from the wine and the attention, agrees to sing. However, the song he chooses was the one his brother Robert had sung to Edna on the boat. Edna shouts out for him to stop. In the process, she spills a glass of wine on Alcee and Mrs. Highcamp. Victor, unfortunately, doesn’t take her seriously at first, and Edna has to get up and cover his mouth with her hand. After this
incident, everyone leaves except Alcee.
Discussion and Analysis
Edna plans her farewell dinner party to be her moment of glory. She spares no expense with the food or the table setting. In fact, she looks like a queen sitting at the head of her table. By all accounts her party is a smashing success. The irony is that Edna becomes miserably unhappy during the meal, realizing that all she wants is Robert and nothing else matters.
Mrs. Highcamp’s attempted seduction of Victor is important to Edna’s decision to kill herself. Mrs. Highcamp is seen as pathetic, using her daughter as a pretext to seduce young men. Edna knows that if she stays married to Leonce for the sake of her children, she could end up like Mrs. Highcamp. That thought is horrifying and degrading to her.
Edna is so absorbed in her newfound sexuality that even as she forces Victor to stop singing because it reminds her of Robert, she still notices how good his lips feels on her hand.