The Awakening Characters
The main characters in The Awakening are Edna Pontellier, Leonce Pontellier, Adele Ratignolle, Robert Lebrun, and Alcee Arobin.
Edna Pontellier is a married woman who feels that her spiritual and physical self are repressed by her family and social obligations.
Leonce Pontellier is Edna’s husband. He fails to understand his wife's needs.
Adele Ratignolle is Edna's foil, who is satisfied with domesticity.
Robert Lebrun is a man with whom Edna has a passionate affair. He decides to flee his relationship with Edna rather than break social mores.
Alcee Arobin is a man with whom Edna has an unsatisfying affair after returning to New Orleans.
Edna is the wife of Léonce Pontellier. She is twenty-eight years old and has two children, Raoul and Etienne, with Léonce. She is described as handsome, frank, engaging, and reserved. (Read extended character analysis of Edna Pontellier.)
Léonce Pontellier is Edna’s husband. He displays a great inability to understand Edna and treats her as an object that must attend and love him while paying little attention to her own needs and interests. (Read extended character analysis of Léonce Pontellier.)
Robert Lebrun is the young, carefree son of Madame Lebrun and the older brother of Victor Lebrun. He is described as a man who “lives in the shadow” of attractive, often married or widowed women. Robert has been a companion of the women in the community since he was fifteen. (Read extended character analysis of Robert Lebrun.)
Mademoiselle Reisz is an elderly pianist. Described as homely, with a small face and a bad taste in clothing, she is viewed as temperamental and disagreeable because she is argumentative and self-assertive. She never works to please others, being a prime example of a woman who goes against society’s norms. She is frequently offensive and disagreeable, but solely because she doesn't care about others’ opinions of her. (Read extended character analysis of Mademoiselle Reisz.)
Adèle Ratignolle is described as an ideal woman within the novel’s setting, acting as a devoted wife and mother to her husband and three children. She is beautiful and possesses poise, grace, and charm. Adèle bonds with Edna Pontellier on Grand Isle, and they often spend time together sewing. They continue being friends after the Pontelliers return home, and Edna is there to support Adèle when she has another child.
As a Creole woman, Adèle expresses herself openly and in ways that are shocking to Edna; however, Adèle also acts with “lofty chastity,” meaning that she still believes in being a proper wife, woman, and mother. Although she is a good friend to Edna, Adèle does not understand her. Adèle sees her life through the scope of her husband and children. To be independent of them would be wrong to Adèle and she cannot imagine herself in any other position.
Alcée Arobin is a young fashionable man, who is good-humored, quiet, and sometimes cheeky. He is known to ruin women’s reputations through his amorous behavior. When he meets Edna, he becomes interested in her. For Edna, Alcée is the man that helps her find her sexuality and desire, but she does not truly love him as she loves Robert. Alcée, however, finds that his admiration of Edna is more genuine and true than he meant it to be.
Alcée plays an important role in Edna’s awakening. As she becomes more independent and free-willed, her relationships with others change. With Alcée, he helps her become autonomous and independent, while also allowing her to explore her sensual side. Yet, Alcée means little to Edna. She sees him as more of a “narcotic” that satisfies her physical and sexual needs than as a person she is passionate about.
Doctor Mandelet is the Pontellier family’s doctor. He is known for being more intellectual and less hands-on, and is the only man who shows that he understands Edna and the change she is going through. He is kind to her and offers to have her talk through her ideas with him.
The Colonel is Edna’s father. Another male figure in Edna’s life that has worked to restrict her decision-making, he is upright,...
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formal, and strict. He is unable to understand Edna’s needs and interests.
Mrs. Highcamp is an indifferent woman in her forties. She befriends Edna and often goes to the horse races with her and Alcée Arobin. Mrs. Highcamp also has a young daughter, for whom she is searching for a suitor.
Madame Lebrun is Robert and Victor Lebrun’s mother. She runs the Lebrun household on Grand Isle and their home in New Orleans. She is described as fresh and pretty, with a comfortable and easy existence. However, she is also narrow-minded, staying within her assigned role as a wife and mother. She is friends with Edna but does not understand Edna’s evolving views.
Victor Lebrun is the nineteen-year-old son of Madame Lebrun. He is the younger brother of Robert Lebrun and is different in nature from Robert. Whereas Robert is solicitous and polite, Victor is rude and often mean to his mother. Victor views the world through humor and is known for his colorful and inappropriate stories. He often flirts with Mariequita on Grand Isle.
Etienne and Raoul Pontellier
Etienne and Raoul Pontellier are the two young sons of Léonce and Edna Pontellier. Edna raises them to be self-sufficient, but their father spoils them with gifts and candy.
Mariequita is a young, pretty, and lively Spanish servant on Grand Isle. She often talks with Robert and Victor and appears to be romantically interested in them both.
The Farival Twins
The Farival twins are two fourteen-years-old girls who are vacationing with their family on Grand Isle. They wear blue and white dresses in the color of the Virgin Mary because they were blessed under her during their baptisms. They often sing and play the piano, giving renditions of a popular opera.
The Lady in Black
The Lady in Black is the church-going woman on Grand Isle who only wears black. She represents the lack of sexuality and freedom in the Gilded Age. Being stern and religious, she follows around the Lovers to make sure they stay chaste.
The Lovers are a young couple staying at Grand Isle for the summer. They are always together and seem to live in their own world. They are normally followed by The Lady in Black to make sure they remain chaste.
Madame Antoine is a large woman and an inhabitant of Chêniére Caminada. She takes care of Edna after Edna grows fatigued, telling her and Robert stories during their visit.
Mrs. and Mr. Merriman
Mrs. Merriman is described as pretty and vivacious. Her husband, Mr. Merriman, is jovial but superficial. They are friends of Edna Pontellier and attend one of her dinner parties.
Miss Mayblunt and Mr. Gouvernail
Miss Mayblunt is a young, intellectual woman rumored to write for the newspapers under a pseudonym. Mr. Gouvernail comes with Miss Mayblunt to Edna’s dinner party. He is connected to a local newspaper and is quiet and observant.
Monsieur Ratignolle is Adèle’s husband. Described as thin and tall, he owns and runs a successful pharmacy in New Orleans.
Tonie is Madame Antoine’s shy son.