Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 729
In Chapter V, Adele continues to sew, while Edna and Robert sit idle, exchanging occasional words and glances that suggest intimacy. Every summer Robert devotes himself to one woman, and this summer it is Edna. The summer before it was Adele, and they joked a bit about it as Robert described his passion to Edna. It was understood that his words of love were not to be taken seriously. Edna is glad Robert does not speak that way to her.
Edna has her sketchbook with her and begins to draw Adele. Robert praises the work, but Edna crumples it up because it does not look like Adele. While Edna is drawing, Robert rests his head against her arm. Even after she pushes him away, he does it again.
The children come up with their nurse, and Edna wants to talk to them but they are interested only in the bonbons. The sun is setting, and Adele gathers up her sewing to leave. She complains of faintness, and Edna and Robert rush to help her. Afterwards Edna wonders if Adele had been faking.
Edna watches Adele walk away and watches her children run and cling to her. She picks up the little one despite her doctor’s orders not to lift anything.
After Adele leaves, Robert asks Edna if she is going bathing. Edna says no, but Robert insists and they walk away together to the beach.
Chapter VI is only one page, and is a break from the plot. First Edna wonders why she first said no, and then so easily yes, to going to the beach with Robert. She is beginning to sense something in herself, but at this point it only confuses her and causes her anguish.
The narrator tells us that Edna is beginning to recognize her place in the world, and hints that most women never see this. And like all such beginnings, it is chaotic and dangerous.
Finally, the sea is described as seductive and sensuous, with a voice that speaks to the soul.
Discussion and Analysis
In Chapter V, we see further the intimacy between Robert and Edna and learn that Robert devotes himself each summer to one woman. It is obviously understood at Grand Isle that Robert is not to be taken seriously. However, Edna, as we already know, is not familiar with Creole customs and can’t help but take him seriously. She finds it offensive when he rests his head on her arm, yet he clearly thinks nothing of it.
We are introduced to Edna’s love of beauty and art. Her love of beauty is shown through Adele, whom Edna likes to gaze at “as she might look upon a faultless Madonna.” Her love of art is shown through her sketching. She “felt in it a satisfaction of a kind which no other employment afforded her.” Yet she is very critical of herself as an artist; she crumples up a sketch of Adele because it doesn’t look like her, even though it is a “fair enough piece of work.”
We also see that she does in fact love her children, although she does not always feel motherly. When they come to the house looking for candy, “she sought to detain them for a little talk and some pleasantry.” It sounds as though she were talking about adults rather than children. In fact, the children have no wish to stay. In contrast, Adele’s children flutter around her skirts, and she picks the youngest one up despite her doctor’s orders not to lift anything.
Again the sea comes into play, this time with a new adjective attached to it. The breeze that comes up is “charged with the seductive odor of the sea.” Later after Robert invites her for a swim, the sea has a “sonorous murmur,” which reached her like a “loving but imperative entreaty.” The sea is becoming seductive; its pull on her is getting stronger.
Chapter VI is really an interlude in the narrative. Chopin is letting us know that The Awakening is beginning; Edna is beginning to see her place in the world and to want more. Chopin is also telling us that such an awakening can be dangerous, even life-threatening. Finally, Chopin is using foreshadowing, telling us that the touch of the sea is an embrace Edna may not want to leave.
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