Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 462
Mademoiselle Reisz: a loner at Grand Isle; a gifted pianist who becomes very close to Edna
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It is now Saturday night, a few weeks after the conversation between Robert and Adele. The main house is all lit up and decorated, and all the guests are there for relaxation and entertainment. Even the children are permitted to stay up later than usual, until after ice cream and cake are served. The Farival twins perform the same songs as always on the piano, a little girl performs a dance, and a brother and sister give recitations. Then everyone dances while Adele plays the piano.
While Adele is playing, Edna conjures up an image of a naked man standing alone and hopeless on the beach, watching a bird fall from the sky.
Robert leaves to get Mademoiselle Reisz, who agrees, to everyone’s happiness, to play the piano. Edna is very fond of music; if it is well played, it evokes pictures in her mind. This time, however, she sees no pictures. Instead, the music invokes great passion, and she finds herself shaking and crying. Mademoiselle Reisz finishes playing and leaves, happy with Edna’s response.
The party breaks up shortly after Mademoiselle Reisz leaves, although many of the guests decide to go bathing at Robert’s suggestion.
Discussion and Analysis
The chapter opens with entertainment being provided for the guests, by the guests. The Farival twins repeat their earlier performance, reminding us again of Zampa’s romantic death at sea.
Adele plays piano while everyone dances. She plays only because it was a “means of brightening the home and making it attractive.” Everything Adele does is for others. She is in direct contrast to Mademoiselle Reisz who is a true artist but has no family or love in her life. These are the two extremes surrounding Edna. Mademoiselle Reisz, physically, is the extreme opposite of Adele. She is short, thin and ugly, and nobody really likes her. This is what happens to women who forsake marriage and motherhood.
Adele plays a piece that Edna names “Solitude.” While listening, Edna finds herself conjuring up an image of a solitary naked man by the seashore. His attitude was one of “hopeless resignation” as he watches a bird in flight. This is how Edna feels: alone, lonely, unable to fly away and be free. It can also be seen as foreshadowing of Edna’s fate. The same image comes up in Chapter XXXIX, only it has a slightly different feel to it there.
When Mademoiselle Reisz plays the piano, Edna is stirred by a whole new set of emotions, notably passion. She is so moved she sobs. Edna has never felt that sort of passion before but will now long to feel it again.