Chapter 36 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 644

When Edna is out walking, she often stops in a small quiet garden in the suburbs, where the proprietress sells and serves excellent food. It is not a place that is known to many people, and she never expects to see anyone she knows.

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One afternoon, when she is eating dinner there, Robert walks in; he is uneasy and embarrassed when he sees Edna. Edna had intended to be reserved if she saw Robert but her reserve melts when she sees him. She asks him why he is staying away from her. Robert becomes almost angry and begs her to leave him alone.

Edna tells him he is selfish, not caring how she feels. Robert replies that she is being cruel, trying to force him into a disclosure that will result in nothing for him. They chat a bit about impersonal things; Robert tells Edna the end of the book she is reading so she won’t have to finish it.

When they are finished, Robert walks Edna home. She goes into her room to wash up, and when she comes back to the living room, Robert is leaning back in a chair as if in a reverie. She leans over and kisses him, then moves away. Robert follows her and takes her in his arms. She touches his face with love and tenderness, and they kiss again.

Robert finally admits that he loves her. He says he has been fighting it because she was not free, but he had been dreaming of marrying her and that Leonce would set her free. Edna kisses him again and tells him he is being silly. She tells him she is not a possession of Leonce’s and that he could not set her free if he wanted to. She makes it clear that she gives herself as she chooses.

Robert turns white; he does not understand. Just then Adele’s servant comes to the door to say that Adele is ready to have her baby and wants Edna to come. Robert kisses Edna good-bye with more passion than before. Edna tells him she loves him, and they can be together now. She asks him to wait for her until she returns from Adele’s. Robert pleads with her not to go, but she leaves, promising to be back soon.

Discussion and Analysis

Again Edna refuses to let Robert be. She presses until she gets a response. She tells Robert that he is being selfish, without thinking for a minute about how selfish she is being or how uncaring.

Edna is determined that her passion will win Robert over, and she is right at first. When she kisses him, he loses his senses and he kisses her back. Chopin lets us know that this is very different from the way she kisses Alcee. When she touches his face and presses his cheek against hers, “the action was full of love and tenderness.” There’s no question that Edna truly loves Robert; she has just blinded herself to the consequences of that love.

Robert finally admits that he loves her, but that he held back because she was not free to marry him, although he had dreamed of Leonce setting her free. Edna laughs at this because she has already set herself free. Robert, however, doesn’t understand. He is a traditional Creole man and has no more understanding of Edna than Leonce or Alcee.

Robert begs Edna not to go to Adele’s because he knows that without her there he will come to his senses and have to do the honorable thing. However, Edna, self-absorbed as ever, doesn’t understand Robert any more than he understands her. She believes if they love each other, everything else will work out. As we have seen already, Edna lacks forethought. She prefers to live in her fantasy world.

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