At a Glance

The Awakening key characters:

  • In The Awakening, Edna Pontellier is a married woman who feels that her spiritual and physical self is repressed by her family and social obligations.

  • Léonce Pontellier is Edna’s husband. He fails to understand his wife and recognize her need for self-actualization.

  • Adèle Ratignolle is a foil to Edna in that she is perfectly satisfied being a wife and mother.

  • Robert Lebrun is Edna’s love interest. He sees love and romance as a game but in the end prefers to flee his relationship with Edna rather than break social mores.

  • Alcée Arobin is Edna’s substitute for Robert. Alcée is aggressive in pursuing Edna but lacks Robert’s depth and romantic appeal.

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List of Characters

Edna Pontellier

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Minor Characters

Doctor Mandelet

Doctor Mandelet is the Pontellier family’s doctor. He is known for being more intellectual and less...

(The entire section is 1,156 words.)