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.
He is of similar coloring and temperament to Edna Pontellier, whom he becomes close friends with. Before he met Edna, he would keep company with Adèle Ratignolle and would often facetiously profess his love to her. Despite Robert’s previous professions of love toward Adèle, he does not act in such a way toward Edna. Instead, he treats Edna as an equal. Eventually, however, he begins to flirt with Edna and soon falls in love with her. When he realizes that he loves a married woman whom he cannot be with, he leaves for Mexico. He tries to escape from his emotions but fails to do so. Realizing that he still loves Edna, he eventually returns to New Orleans, but finds himself reluctant to profess his love to her.
Although Robert is kind and loving to Edna, he still adheres to the typical gender roles of late 20th-century society. He wishes Léonce would “give” Edna to him but cannot fathom that Edna is not something to be given. Robert still sees Edna as something that can be owned and wants her to become his wife. However, when he sees that Edna is free-thinking and autonomous, he realizes that he cannot “have” her the way that he wants. So he leaves her, leaving behind a note telling her that he loves her. Yet his actions cause Edna to become depressed and hopeless, as she has tied much of her newfound freedom to him.