Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 477

New Character
Adele Ratignolle: a friend of Edna’s; a beautiful woman who is devoted to her husband and children; she is pregnant

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This chapter begins with a description of Edna’s mothering. Leonce cannot define exactly Edna’s failings in this regard, but as an example, if one of the Pontellier children fell, he would not rush to his mother’s arms for comfort. Edna is not a “mother-woman”: a breed who idolize their children and worship their husbands and have no selves of their own.

One such mother-woman is Adele Ratignolle, who is described as “the embodiment of every womanly grace and charm.” She is very fond of Edna and is with her, doing her usual sewing, the day the box of delicacies arrives from Leonce. She had brought a pattern for Edna to cut for a winter outfit for the children. Edna is not interested in doing this but so as not to offend Adele, she cuts the pattern.

Edna offers Adele some bonbons, which Adele takes with some misgiving because she is pregnant. Adele had been married seven years and had a baby every two years. Robert, who is there also, tries to reassure Adele about the bonbon, but Edna blushes when he mentions the pregnancy.

Everyone at Grand Isle that summer is a Creole; Edna is a Creole only by marriage and does not feel entirely comfortable among them. She is especially taken by their freedom of expression and absence of prudery, which nonetheless went hand in hand with a strict chastity. She is embarrassed by Adele’s description of a particularly difficult childbirth and by the plot of a book that everyone else had read and discussed openly.

Discussion and Analysis
Here we see the contrast between Edna, who is seeking independence, and Adele Ratignolle, who is a classic “mother-woman.” These mother-women “idolized their children, wor-shipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.” Adele’s physical description goes along with this. There is nothing subtle about Adele. She is beautiful, feminine, and maternal. In fact, her hands are never more beautiful than when she is sewing. Physically, as tempermentally, she is in direct contrast to Edna.

Adele has had a baby every two years since her wedding and is pregnant again. Chopin points out that although she is not showing yet, everyone knows she is pregnant because Adele talks about it constantly. Because Adele as mother-woman has no identity beyond wife and mother, it is crucial to her that her pregnancy is known.

Finally Edna’s alienation from Creole society is brought out. She blushes when Robert talks about Adele’s pregnancy and was shocked by a racy book that everyone else had read and discussed openly. This openness is in contrast to Edna’s strict, moralistic upbringing.

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