Chapter 39 Summary

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Last Updated April 21, 2023.

The next day, on Grand Isle, Victor is working while Mariequita observes him. He is recounting the dinner he had at Edna's, embellishing each aspect of the experience. Mariequita believes that Victor has romantic feelings for Edna, which causes her to feel envious and moody, but eventually, she allows Victor to comfort her.

To their great surprise, Edna suddenly shows up in front of them, appearing fatigued from her journey from New Orleans. She explains that she has come to take a break from her life there, and any available room would suffice. After that, she inquires about the schedule for dinner.

Edna informs them that she plans to visit the beach and have a swim. However, they caution her that the water is excessively chilly. Nevertheless, she asserts that she would at least dip her toes in the water.

Edna strolls along the seashore without any specific thoughts in mind. She had pondered throughout the night after Robert's departure. She admits that she will search for a new lover after Alcee and understands the impact it will have on Raoul and Etienne. Additionally, she fully comprehends the significance of her statement to Adele that she would never compromise her well-being for her children.

Edna became overwhelmed with sadness as she realized that there was nothing and no one she desired in the world except for Robert. She also understood that eventually, even that yearning would disappear, leaving her completely isolated. Her children appeared to her as adversaries, attempting to control her, but she knew how to avoid them.

The night before on the couch, Edna pondered over all of these things. However, as she makes her way to the beach, her mind is blank. The enticing sound of the sea is as alluring as it has always been. Suddenly, she notices a bird with a damaged wing plunging into the water.

Edna puts on her swimsuit, only to take it off again and stand by the water feeling like a brand new being, like “some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known.” 

As the water's gentle pressure draws her in, she steps forward. She pushes on despite her growing fatigue. Specifically, she recalls how Leonce and her children mistook her for something they could own. There is a part of her that imagines Mademoiselle Reisz sneering at her, saying that because she lacks courage, she can not be considered a true artist.

Edna is well aware of the fact that Robert failed and would fail to ever truly understand her. Now that she has swum out deep into the ocean, she experiences a brief pang of fear. Finally, she hears the buzz of bees and smells the musty odor of pinks, but she still hears her father and sister's voices and can hear the clanging spurs of the cavalry officer she had been infatuated with. Her life is flashing before her eyes, and the reader can assume that she will drown.

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Chapter 38 Summary