What happens to Adèle Ratignolle in The Awakening?

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Near the end of the novel, Adèle, who is content with domesticity, has another child. Edna witnesses the painful birth, and Adèle tells her to think of her children.

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Adèle Ratignolle is Edna's friend but also her foil, or opposite. Adèle is content, as Edna is not, with being a wife and mother. She is glad to subordinate her own needs to her family. Nevertheless, because she is Creole, she is able to speak warmly and openly to Edna, awakening Edna's turbulent emotions.

Near the end of the novel, Adèle summons Edna to be with her for comfort as she gives birth to a child. Edna was drugged during the birth of her two sons, so she only has vague memories of childbirth:

She recalled faintly an ecstasy of pain, the heavy odor of chloroform, a stupor which had deadened sensation, and an awakening to find a little new life to which she had given being, added to the great unnumbered multitude of souls that come and go.

Her drugged state made it difficult to feel an immediate bond with her sons.

As she watches Adèle's agony during the birth process, Edna resents the way women have been forced into motherhood, experiencing "a flaming, outspoken revolt against the ways of Nature." However, she also has an increased appreciation for what she went through to have her sons and a renewed sense of the connection she has to them. She realizes she has obligations to them and cannot simply disregard their welfare. As the chapter ends, Adèle tells her to think of "the children."

Edna knows that she does have to think about her sons and how her actions have an impact on their lives, but she decides to put that task off until tomorrow. She comes away from the scene seeing childbirth as "torture" but also realizing that her children are a competing and real obligation that interferes with her desire to simply do what she wants:

She remembered Adèle's voice whispering, "Think of the children; think of them." She meant to think of them; that determination had driven into her soul like a death wound—but not to-night.

Adèle's childbirth is important because of the impact it has on Edna, reinforcing Adèle's supporting role in the novel.

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