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The Awakening

The Awakening Summary


Here you will find a The Awakening summary (Kate Chopin's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

The Awakening Summary Overview

During the late nineteenth century, in the bustling resort of Grand Isle, frequented by the rich from nearby New Orleans, we find Edna Pontellier on vacation with her family. Edna's husband, Léonce, though caring, is often occupied with his work, leaving Edna to spend most of her time with her friend, Adèle Ratignolle. Adèle, a married Creole woman embodying femininity and grace, introduces Edna to a world of unrestricted expression, revealing to her the freedom that comes with unreserved behavior. Edna's friendship with Adèle sparks a journey of self-discovery that intensifies when she meets Robert Lebrun, the unmarried son of their hostess. Robert is known for his summer-long devotion to a chosen woman, usually married, and this season he chooses Edna. Their initial innocent companionship evolves into a deeper bond, igniting in Edna a resurgence of vitality and artistic creativity. Their unspoken feelings for each other stirs in Edna memories of her youthful dreams and aspirations, leading to moments of profound joy and inexplicable depression. Recognizing their growing intimacy, Robert distances himself to avoid crossing forbidden lines, leaving a transformed Edna to return to New Orleans. Back in the city, Edna embraces her passion for painting while disregarding her societal duties, alarming her husband. Léonce, under the advice of the family doctor, lets Edna's rebellious phase play out. With her family away, Edna rejects her old lifestyle and pursues independence, even engaging in a passion-filled liaison with the local womanizer, Alcée Arobin. Meanwhile, the elderly pianist Mademoiselle Reisz takes Edna under her wing, further inspiring Edna's growth and independence. Robert's sudden return and declaration of love for Edna results in a confrontation of societal norms, as Edna rejects her husband's authority and proposes a life with Robert, though he struggles with the idea of an adulterous affair. When Edna is summoned to aid Adèle during a difficult childbirth, she leaves Robert with a plea to wait for her, but is confronted by Adèle's cautionary advice about her unconventional actions. She returns home to find Robert gone, leaving Edna feeling isolated and questioning the morality of her actions. Overwhelmed by the societal limitations and the realization of her unfulfilled desires, Edna retreats to Grand Isle, surrendering herself to the sea in an act of final liberation. Concluding on an ambiguous note, it remains uncertain whether Edna's suicide is an act of cowardice or a triumphant escape.

chapter 1

The story begins in Grand Isle, a holiday spot for rich French Creoles from New Orleans. Léonce Pontellier, a prosperous New Orleans merchant in his forties, is outside the main guesthouse perusing his newspaper. The guesthouse proprietor, Madame Lebrun's pet birds, a parrot and a mockingbird, are creating quite the ruckus. Léonce moves to his rented cottage to avoid the birds' noise. Looking back at the main building, he notices the racket has escalated: the Farival twins are playing the piano, Madame Lebrun instructs servants, and a woman dressed in black paces with her rosary. His young children play under the supervision of their quadroon nurse near the water-oaks. As Léonce enjoys a cigar, he watches his wife, Edna, approaching from the beach with Robert Lebrun, the son of Mrs. Lebrun. Léonce chastises Edna for her sunburn and carelessly swimming during the day's peak heat. After giving Edna her rings, which he'd been holding, he invites Robert for a game of billiards at Klein's hotel. Robert decides to stay with Edna, declining the offer, as Léonce departs.

chapter 2

Robert, a youthful and carefree individual, and Edna, a charming and captivating woman, engage in continuous conversation. They exchange thoughts about the surrounding landscape and their fellow individuals. Robert shares his summertime plan to venture to Mexico in hopes of improving his fortunes. Meanwhile, Edna reminisces about her youth spent in the Kentucky bluegrass region and mentions her sister's approaching nuptials.

chapter 3

Coming back from his late-night billiards game, Léonce is in a buoyant mood. He rouses Edna to share his club gossip, but her lethargic responses disappoint him. Noticing their son Raoul might be feverish, he rebukes Edna for her 'habitual neglect of the children.' Despite her insistence that Raoul was fine before bed, he presses her to check on him. Following a brief visit to their sons' room, Edna returns to sleep, ignoring further questions from Léonce. She stays awake long after her husband drifts off, sitting outside and crying softly to the sound of the ocean. Despite moments of unexplained sadness in the past, her husband's love and kindness have always offered solace. But tonight, an unfamiliar sense of despair engulfs her, leaving her outside until pests drive her in. In the morning, Léonce sets off for a week of business. As he leaves, he hands Edna some cash and bids farewell to a small crowd gathered to see him off. He sends Edna a box of sweets from New Orleans, which she shares with her friends. Praise for Léonce as the perfect husband abounds, and under their scrutiny, Edna concedes 'she kn[ows] of none better.'

chapter 4

Léonce senses a unique distinctness in Edna's approach to their sons compared to the other Grand Isle women. Edna, unlike these 'mother-women,' refuses to sacrifice her selfhood to adore her kids or idolize her spouse. Adèle Ratignolle, a friend of Edna and a quintessential mother-woman, serves as a stark contrast. At Grand Isle, Adèle, Edna, and Robert engage in casual conversation while enjoying the sweets sent by Léonce. Topics range from Adèle’s sewing and the chocolates to childbirth, which leaves Edna stunned. Edna's marriage to Léonce, a Creole aristocrat, immerses her in the company of Creole women, but she struggles to adapt to their traditions. Their candid discourse contrasts sharply with typical American manners. Yet, these women possess an elevating purity that maintains their respectability.

chapter 5

From his teen years, Robert has made a habit of dedicating himself to one woman each summer. He shares stories of his past devotion to Adèle while seated with her and Edna by the sea. Adèle humorously remarks that she used to worry about her husband's jealousy, a notion that is amusing since Creole husbands are known not to be jealous. She admits that she never took Robert's declarations of love seriously. It's an expected move when Robert decides to dedicate his summer to Edna. While he's used to shifting attentions seasonally, his manner with Edna is different. When they're alone, he doesn't express love in the same half-serious, half-joking tone he used with Adèle. As Edna sketches Adèle, Robert looks on, leaning on Edna's arm until she nudges him off. Adèle doesn't think the finished sketch looks like her, but she appreciates it nonetheless. Edna, however, is not content and ruins the drawing. As Edna's children arrive, their nurse trails behind. They assist their mother with her art supplies and are rewarded with sweets. Adèle momentarily faints, an incident Edna believes may have been staged. Once recovered, Adèle gracefully returns to her own cottage, warmly greeting her three children on her way. Robert suggests a swim which Edna initially turns down due to fatigue. But soon, she succumbs to his persistent appeals and they make their way to the beach, Robert placing her straw hat on her head.

chapter 6

Edna is unsure why she initially turned down Robert's proposal to swim even though she wanted to accompany him to the beach. A peculiar brightness inside her guides her towards "dreams," "thoughtfulness," and the "shadowy anguish" that made her cry the night Léonce came back from the club. She's slowly starting to see herself as an individual connected to the world beyond her immediate surroundings, and the sea's sound leads her spirit towards "inward contemplation" and a disturbing, unfamiliar depth of wisdom.

chapter 7

Edna is usually reserved and doesn't often share her personal thoughts. From an early age, she felt torn between her public persona and her questioning inner self. However, her friendship with the open and honest Adèle at Grand Isle begins to break down her barriers. They stroll to the beach, a striking pair. Edna, in simple summer clothes, is lean and has an intriguing aura, while Adèle, a classic beauty, is dressed more elaborately to shield her skin from the sun. They rest on Edna’s bathhouse veranda, with Edna loosening her garments for comfort. Meanwhile, the lady in black is immersed in her religious book on another porch and two lovers are canoodling under an empty children’s canopy. Adèle, noticing Edna’s quiet contemplation, asks what she's thinking about. Edna shares that the ocean brings back memories of a childhood day in Kentucky when she pretended to swim through a vast meadow, a welcome escape from dull Sunday prayers. Now, she follows religious practices out of habit but admits that she often feels like she's reliving that summer day in the meadow – wandering without purpose or direction. Adèle’s gentle touch takes Edna by surprise, as she's still not used to the Creoles’ casual displays of affection. This leads Edna to reflect on her past relationships with other girls. She wasn't close to her sisters and most of her friends were just as self-contained as she was. Her best friend was a girl whose intelligence she admired and sought to emulate. Edna's most intense relationships were her non-reciprocated crushes on men. She was swept off her feet by her now-husband Léonce and was charmed by his sincere courtship. When her family opposed Léonce’s Catholic faith, she found the prospect of their union even more enticing. Moreover, she considered marriage a solution to her unrealistic romantic fantasies, an anchor to societal norms. Thus, she found contentment in the lacking passion of her union. Her thoughts shift to her relationship with her kids. She admits to being inconsistent and impulsive in her love for them and feels a sense of relief when they leave to visit relatives. She realizes that she was unprepared for motherhood. She confides some of these feelings to Adèle, finding the openness refreshing. Their intimate moment is interrupted by Robert and their children. While Adèle and Robert leave together, Edna spends time with the children.

chapter 8

Following Edna's admission of past infatuations, Adèle expresses worry that Edna might mistake Robert's flirtations for something more serious and advises him to leave her be. Offended, Robert impulsively states that he wishes Edna would consider his affections earnestly, as he's weary of the Creole women who treat him as a fleeting distraction. Adèle cautions him that pursuing married women earnestly would tarnish his image as a respectable gentleman. Robert starts to justify to Adèle the allure of a genuine affair, but reconsiders. Instead, he shifts the conversation to stories of renowned philanderer, Alcée Arobin, until Adèle's worry for Edna seems to have dissipated. Adèle goes to bed, while Robert, after a short hunt for Edna on the beach, unwinds with his mother at her bungalow. They talk about Robert’s impertinent brother Victor and the most recent gossip about Montel, Madame Lebrun’s persistent admirer.

chapter 9

Weeks after Adèle’s talk with Robert, Madame Lebrun and her tenants host a party for their weekend visitors. The Farival twins, fourteen-year-olds destined to be nuns, perform a piano duet. Adèle takes a turn playing the piano for dancing guests. Afterwards, Robert convinces the cantankerous Mademoiselle Reisz to play on the piano for Edna. Despite usually visualizing different feelings when hearing Adèle play her various pieces, this time Edna feels the emotions instead of seeing them in her mind's eye. Mademoiselle Reisz’s performance moves Edna to tears. When she finishes playing, Mademoiselle Reisz appreciates Edna's genuine response, calling her the only genuine listener present. The rest of the party also seems to have enjoyed the music. Robert then proposes they all go for a late-night swim.

chapter 10

Walking back from a party, Edna is perplexed by Robert's sudden detachment. His devotion seems to have a pattern; he withdraws, then compensates upon his return. They reach the beach, where everyone except Edna rushes into the water. Having not mastered swimming, she's initially hesitant. However, an unexpected surge of empowerment prompts her to step into the water, causing a ripple of surprise among the spectators. For the first time, Edna feels in control, as she defies convention and swims out further than any woman has before. She chides herself for not discovering the joy of swimming sooner. But the thrill soon turns to fear as she realizes the distance she has swum and doubts her ability to return. Once back ashore, she quickly dresses and opts to walk home alone, ignoring appeals from her husband and others to stay. Robert follows her, which prompts Edna to question his concern for her safety. He assures her he knew she wasn't scared, leaving the real reason for his pursuit unstated. Overwhelmed, Edna struggles to express the emotional whirlwind the evening stirred in her. Robert shares a tale about a spirit choosing a mortal companion, subtly hinting that he understands her feelings, though Edna dismisses it as banter. On reaching home, Edna is exhausted and sinks into a hammock. Robert stays with her, both silent, until her husband returns. The narrator remarks that their silence spoke volumes about the awakening of their desires. Robert departs as the swimmers return.

chapter 11

Léonce comes back and insists Edna should retire for the night. However, Edna insists on staying outside in the hammock, much to her husband's annoyance. This defiance is new to her, having always complied with his wishes previously without a second thought. Edna contemplates this change in her and wonders how she was ever so compliant before. Léonce, meanwhile, spends the evening on the porch, smoking and drinking wine until the early morning hours. He offers Edna wine multiple times, but she consistently declines. Eventually, sleep gets the better of Edna and she heads inside. She questions Léonce if he'll join her, to which he responds he will, once he's done with his cigar.

chapter 12

After a fitful night's sleep, Edna awakens while most of Grand Isle still slumbers. As some, including the two lovers and the lady in black, head towards the wharf for the boat to Chênière Caminada's Sunday mass, Edna unusually seeks out Robert's company. She gets one of Mrs. Lebrun’s servants to rouse him, and surprisingly, neither of them find this request out of the ordinary. On the boat, Robert briefly converses in Spanish with Mariequita, a lively, inquisitive Spanish girl. He soon redirects his focus to Edna, playfully planning their future island adventures and the treasures they'll squander. Edna feels liberated, like the shackles tying her to Grand Isle have been shattered, leaving her free to follow her own whims.

chapter 13

Edna, feeling fatigued and uneasy during the church service, stumbles out, trailed by Robert. He escorts her to Madame Antoine's cottage on the Chênière for some rest. Once secluded in the tiny room, Edna disrobes partially and freshens up. Lying in bed, she admires the strength and delicacy of her arms before drifting into sleep. Waking up revitalized, she finds Robert in the garden. Sensing as if she had slept for an extended period, she humorously suggests that they are the last of their kind. After enjoying dinner prepared by Robert, they join Madame Antoine under a tree when she gets back. They spend the evening listening to her tales until sundown when they have to leave.

chapter 14

Edna comes back and learns from Adèle about her younger son, Etienne's refusal to sleep. She manages to calm him and put him to sleep. Adèle shares that Léonce was quite worried about Edna not coming back from the Chênière after mass. However, upon finding out that she was resting at Madame Antoine’s place and would be escorted home by Madame Antoine’s son, Léonce leaves for his business at the club. Adèle leaves for her place, not wanting to leave her husband by himself. Robert and Edna get Etienne to bed, and after spending the entire day together, Robert says goodnight and leaves. Alone and waiting for Léonce to come back, Edna reflects on the significant change she's experienced at Grand Isle but can't quite pinpoint what it is. She reasons that if she's not tired then Robert probably isn't too and wonders why he left. Feeling a sense of regret, she hums the song he sang during their boat trip to the Chênière—“Ah! Si tu savais . . .” (“Ah! If only you knew”).

chapter 15

During a dinner, Edna learns suddenly that Robert is departing for Mexico that very night. This startles her, since she had spent the entire day with Robert, who hadn't mentioned his travel plans. The dinner guests discuss Mexico, but a distraught Edna only asks Robert about his departure time. After dinner, she retreats to her cottage and busies herself with chores and attending to her children. Mrs. Lebrun sends a message inviting Edna to sit with her before Robert's departure, but Edna declines, claiming illness. Adèle visits Edna and agrees that Robert's sudden exit is unjust and harsh. Yet, Edna remains unmoved by Adèle's attempts to bring her back to the main house and Adèle leaves alone. Robert later visits Edna to bid her farewell, but can't specify his return date. Edna voices her displeasure over his unexplained, abrupt leave. Robert, however, doesn't fully clarify, trying to avoid disclosing his true emotions towards her. Edna requests Robert to write to her, but his distant response distresses her: “I will, thank you. Good-by.” Alone in the dark, Edna fights back tears, recognizing her infatuation for Robert, reminiscent of her earlier romantic experiences.

chapter 16

Edna is frequently consumed by memories of Robert, feeling that life has grown dim without him. She visits Madame Lebrun often to discuss and see images of Robert in family photo albums. She gets a twinge of envy when she reads Robert's farewell letter to his mother, wishing he had written to her instead. Everyone accepts Edna's longing for Robert, including her spouse. When she discovers that Léonce met Robert in New Orleans before he left for Mexico, she eagerly inquires about the encounter. She is comfortable asking these questions, since her feelings for Robert differ from those for her husband. She's accustomed to keeping her emotions private. She once attempted to explain this emotional autonomy to Adèle, saying, “I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children, but I wouldn’t give myself.” Adèle can't comprehend doing more for one's children than sacrificing her own life. As summer draws to a close, Mademoiselle Reisz queries Edna on the beach about Robert's absence's impact. They engage in a chat where Mademoiselle reveals Madame Lebrun's favoritism toward her other son, Victor, despite his rudeness. The brothers are known to often argue. Unaware of her impact on Edna, Mademoiselle Reisz urges Edna to visit her in New Orleans and shares her address.

chapter 17

Léonce is often proud of his possessions and he likes to stroll around his opulent New Orleans residence, examining his belongings. Every Tuesday for six years, Edna has maintained her tradition of hosting guests, always dressing up and staying at home. A few weeks after they return to New Orleans, Edna breaks tradition by wearing a simple housedress to dinner instead of her regular Tuesday outfit. Léonce, surprised by her change in attire, inquires about her day. She informs him she did not entertain any visitors nor instructed the servants to provide an excuse to her guests. This angers Léonce, as he worries her disregard for her social responsibilities might harm his business connections. Unhappy with the dinner served, he leaves halfway to dine at the club, something Edna has grown used to lately. After eating, Edna retreats to her room, tearing her handkerchief into shreds while pacing. She throws her wedding ring on the floor, attempting to crush it, but fails. Feeling destructive, she breaks a glass vase on the hearth.

chapter 18

Upon waking, Edna rejects Léonce's invitation to meet him downtown, opting to work on her sketches instead. Finding no joy in sketching, she decides to call on Adèle. She discovers Adèle at home, occupied with folding fresh laundry. Edna shares her desire to take drawing classes and shows her portfolio, hoping for praise and encouragement. She gifts some sketches to Adèle and stays for a meal. As she departs, Edna is hit with a wave of melancholy as she acknowledges that the domestic bliss Adèle shares with the Ratignolles is something she finds unappealing. Adèle's "colorless existence" and "blind contentment" seem pitiful to her.

chapter 19

Edna no longer adheres to the tradition of accepting visitors on Tuesdays. Her husband, Léonce, criticizes her for painting instead of looking after her family's needs. He suggests that she emulates Adèle, who never allows her appreciation for music to interfere with her domestic tasks. He even wonders if Edna might be mentally unstable. Regardless, he leaves her alone, painting and singing Robert's tune as she daydreams about the sea and Grand Isle. Edna's emotions vary dramatically each day, shifting between extreme happiness and deep sorrow.

chapter 20

Amid her melancholia, Edna seeks solace in Mademoiselle Reisz's piano music. Discovering Reisz's relocation, she consults Madame Lebrun for the new details. Victor, Robert's brother, amuses Edna whilst waiting for his mother with tales of his recent adventures. The scarce attention from visitors is lamented by Madame Lebrun upon her arrival, who also shares the news from Robert’s letters from Mexico. Disappointment engulfs Edna upon learning Robert left no personal note for her. Madame Lebrun reveals Reisz's new location, and Victor walks Edna out. After her departure, the Lebruns share impressions of her, with Victor remarking, “Some way she doesn’t seem like the same woman.”

chapter 21

Mademoiselle Reisz is delighted and shocked to see Edna at her doorstep. She's amused by Edna's candid uncertainty about liking her. Informally, Mademoiselle mentions a letter she received from Robert in Mexico, talking mostly about Edna. Despite Edna's request to read the letter, Mademoiselle refuses but hints that Robert had asked her to play Edna "that Impromptu of Chopin’s." Edna persists in asking her to play the tune and show her the letter. Intrigued, Mademoiselle Reisz inquires about Edna's recent activities and is taken aback to hear about Edna's newfound ambition to be an artist. She cautions her that it requires courage, a spirit that "dares and defies.” Edna affirms that she's determined, if nothing else. This makes Mademoiselle laugh, hand over the letter, and start to play the Chopin piece Edna had asked for. The music profoundly moves Edna, reducing her to tears as Mademoiselle transitions from the Impromptu to "Isolde’s song." Upon Edna's request for another visit, Mademoiselle welcomes her anytime.

chapter 22

Léonce confides his worries about his wife, Edna, to their family doctor, Doctor Mandelet. He reveals that their marital bed has grown cold and shares Edna’s thoughts about women’s rights. The doctor queries if she has been influenced by any female “pseudo-intellectuals,” referring to the women’s clubs of the time. Léonce dismisses this, stating Edna has become a loner, forsaking even her weekly social gatherings. The doctor then questions Edna’s lineage. Léonce confirms that she hails from a reputable Presbyterian family but concedes that her soon-to-be-married younger sister, Janet, is a bit fiery. Dr. Mandelet proposes that Edna attend the wedding, but Léonce reveals that she has already refused, declaring weddings as “one of the most lamentable spectacles on earth.” The doctor suggests giving Edna space, even if that means leaving her home alone during his business trips, assuring him that her current mood will pass. Dr. Mandelet also offers to dine at their home to subtly observe Edna. He suspects that Edna may have a secret lover but refrains from probing further.

chapter 23

Edna's dad, previously a Confederate army colonel, spends some time in New Orleans to pick a wedding gift for Janet and to buy a wedding outfit. Despite the formal military demeanor of her father, Edna finds comfort in his company. She even sketches him in her art studio while he poses patiently. During an evening of music at Adèle's, he's fascinated by Adèle's charming demeanor. Meanwhile, Léonce, as usual, avoids the event for his club outing, a decision Adèle criticizes. Edna dismisses Adèle's suggestion that they should spend evenings at home together, saying they “wouldn't have anything to say to each other." Edna enjoys catering to her dad, valuing their bond but knowing it might not last. Doctor Mandelet dines at the Pontellier house but finds no reason for worry in Edna's actions. Her recounting of a day at the races with her dad seems delightful to him. All of them take turns sharing interesting stories. The Colonel shares war tales, Léonce talks about his early days, and the doctor narrates a story about a woman who regains her sanity after several misguided affairs. Edna responds with a made-up story, supposedly from Madame Antoine, about a woman who vanishes with her lover into the islands. Only the doctor sees the hidden message in Edna's story. As he leaves, he wonders, "I hope to heaven it isn't Alcée Arobin."

chapter 24

Edna and her father, the Colonel, have a heated disagreement about her decision to skip Janet's wedding in New York. Despite the tension, Léonce stays out of it, deciding to attend the wedding himself to make up for Edna's absence. The Colonel criticizes Léonce's inability to control Edna, asserting a man should employ "authority" and "coercion" with his wife. As Léonce's trip to New York nears, Edna becomes unexpectedly caring and tender towards him. She acknowledges his past kindness and even sheds tears on the day he leaves. The children also leave to spend time with Léonce’s mother, Madame Pontellier, in the countryside. Left alone, Edna experiences a “radiant peace.” She takes in the beauty of her house and gardens as if seeing them for the first time, enjoys solitary dinners in her nightgown, and spends her evenings reading in the library before sleep.

chapter 25

Edna's initial peace following her family's departure soon fades. Some days, she feels hopeful about her future, embracing the vitality of youth. Other days, she isolates herself, sensing her life is slipping away. When she's in a sociable mood, she mingles with her Grand Isle friends or attends horse races. During one such outing, Alcée Arobin and Mrs. Highcamp invite her to join them at the racetrack. Alcée had met Edna earlier and was charmed by her understanding of racehorses when he met her with her father. After a supper with the Highcamps, Alcée escorts Edna home, convincing her to go racing with him again. Edna regrets not asking him to stay when he leaves and has an uneasy night, awakening to remember she has yet to pen her regular letter to Léonce. Days later, Alcée and Edna go racing alone. Alcée, known for his uninhibited behaviour around young ladies, stays for dinner with Edna afterwards. Through their conversation, he uncovers her latent sexuality, which makes Edna anxious. Her attraction to Alcée is undeniable, but she fears she's being led into infidelity. After sending Alcée away, she contemplates the hand he kissed, feeling impure. But it's not her husband she feels she's betrayed - it's Robert she's thinking of.

chapter 26

Alcée pens an apologetic note to Edna, who, embarrassed about taking him seriously, replies with casual jest. Reading this as a green light, Alcée steps up his flirty advances. Edna is initially shocked, but soon finds herself enjoying his attention, which stirs her sensual desires. Edna's frequent visits to Mademoiselle Reisz offer emotional solace. During one meeting, Edna reveals her plans to vacate her current residence, which she feels no attachment to, and rent a smaller house nearby. She aims to finance this through her racetrack earnings and sketching profits. Mademoiselle Reisz, sensing there's more to Edna's decision, prompts her to confess her desire for independence and freedom. Despite this admission, neither can fully comprehend the reason behind Edna's move. Mademoiselle Reisz continues the habit of passing Robert's letters to Edna, unbeknownst to Robert, who is striving to forget Edna as he believes she is “not free to listen to him or belong to him.” Upon learning Robert is due back in New Orleans, Edna is stunned. In the intense conversation that follows, Mademoiselle Reisz probes Edna's devotion to Robert with misleading assertions about love. Realizing the purity of Edna's emotions, she mocks Edna's blush during her love declaration for Robert. Filled with anticipation, Edna heads home, sending treats to her sons and informing Léonce, through a jovial letter, about her intention to relocate to the smaller abode.

chapter 27

That night, Alcée encounters Edna in a thoughtful mood. She admits to feeling “devilishly wicked” by societal norms, yet she doesn't see herself that way. Alcée gently touches her face, listening as she recounts her day with Mademoiselle Reisz. Reisz had touched her shoulder blades, warning that a bird daring to soar above tradition and prejudice must have robust wings or risk being “fall back to earth, battered and bruised.” Alcée queries where Edna plans to fly, but she doesn't envision any “extraordinary flights.” In fact, she admits to only partially understanding the older woman. Alcée kisses Edna, to which she reacts by “clasping his head.” This kiss from Alcée is “the first . . . of her life to which her nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch that kindled desire.”

chapter 28

Once Alcée is gone, Edna is overcome with tears. Her guilt is triggered by all the material comforts her husband provides, making her aware of how irresponsible she has been. Yet, she feels no remorse or embarrassment. Instead, it's her intensifying love for Robert that impacts her deeply, becoming "quicker, fiercer" and "more overpowering." She's hit with a sudden clarity, "as if a mist had been lifted from her eyes, enabling her to look upon and comprehend the significance of life..." The only thing she regrets is that her kiss with Alcée lacked love.

chapter 29

Edna doesn't wait for Léonce's response and readies herself to relocate to a nearby house, referred to as the “pigeon house” by one of her maids. The term is used to compare its size and style to the luxurious pigeon coops owned by the rich. On Alcée's arrival, he finds Edna in an old outfit, meticulously packing her belongings, only ones not gifted by Léonce. She doesn't display any particular warmth towards him, being engrossed in her task. Alcée reminds Edna of the upcoming dinner party she has arranged, and she confirms that it is scheduled for the eve of her shift. He pleads to meet her sooner, to which she playfully rebukes him. However, her gaze gives him “with eyes that at once gave him the courage to wait and made it torture to wait.”

chapter 30

Edna's dinner party in honor of her new house is intimate and elite, hosting friends from high-society, Mademoiselle Reisz, Victor Lebrun and Alcée. With Adèle's pregnancy nearing its end, her husband stands in for her. The décor is lavish, with gold and yellow highlights throughout the room. Edna shares that it's her 29th birthday and suggests a toast to her health with a drink made by the Colonel for Janet's wedding. Alcée, however, redirects the toast to the Colonel himself, in honor of "the daughter he invented." Despite her regal appearance, Edna is consumed by desire and despair, her mind occupied with Robert. As Mademoiselle Reisz and Adèle’s husband depart, the focus shifts to Victor. He has been adorned by Mrs. Highcamp with a rose garland and silk scarf, giving him an "Oriental beauty" appeal. When asked to sing, he melodramatically complies, beginning "Ah! Si tu savais!" This provokes Edna to demand he stops, forcefully setting her glass down and breaking it. Victor persists, until Edna covers his mouth and repeats her demand. He obliges, kissing her hand with a "pleasing sting." This signals to the guests that the evening is closing.

chapter 31

After all have departed, Alcée remains and helps Edna close her massive residence. She walks with him to the birdhouse, which he has unexpectedly adorned with blossoms. He announces his departure, but noticing her gradual response to his fondling, he settles next to her and showers her shoulders with affectionate kisses, yielding her to his "gentle, seductive entreaties."

chapter 32

Léonce responds to Edna's relocation with a firm letter of objection. He doesn't question her reasons, but fears it will fuel rumors of his financial instability. To counteract these possible speculations, he engages a reputed architect to revamp his house. He uses a newspaper advertisement to announce plans for a foreign trip with Edna during the renovation. As her husband remains away, Edna experiences a growth in her sense of self and spirituality. She pays a visit to her kids at their grandma's residence in Iberville, a trip she enjoyed so much that she carried memories of their laughter and enthusiasm on her journey back to New Orleans.

chapter 33

Adèle drops in on Edna, expressing concerns about her friend's new and independent lifestyle. She warns Edna about damaging her reputation due to Alcée's frequent visits, saying “his attentions alone are . . . enough to ruin a woman’s name.” After numerous interruptions occur, preventing Edna from painting, she decides to call on Mademoiselle Reisz. However, she finds the apartment empty and decides to wait there. She's taken aback when Robert, who's been back for two days, knocks on the door. Edna questions his feelings for her, as he didn't visit her immediately upon his return. Robert speaks nervously, revealing his affection for her briefly during a pause. When asked about not writing her, he tells her he didn’t think she'd be interested. Edna rejects this reason, making a decision not to wait for Mademoiselle Reisz. Robert escorts Edna back home, where she invites him for dinner. Initially, he declines, but changes his mind upon seeing her disappointment. Inside, he spots Alcée’s photo, which she claims is for a sketch study. His questioning hints at his doubts, so Edna shifts the conversation towards Robert’s time in Mexico. He shares that his mind was always on the moments he shared with her. When asked about her time in New Orleans, Edna repeats his nostalgic words almost verbatim, leading him to call her “cruel.” A silence falls between them until dinner is ready.

chapter 34

At mealtime, Edna and Robert become uncharacteristically formal and lose their usual spiritedness. Post dinner, in the lounge, Edna brings up the young Mexican girl who gifted Robert a tobacco pouch that sparked conversation. Unexpectedly, Alcée arrives with a note about a card game for Edna. Spotting Robert, Alcée immediately brings up the allure of Mexican girls, which puts Robert off and he responds in a chilly manner. Shortly after, Robert leaves, leaving Edna and Alcée. Alcée proposes going on a late-night drive, but Edna declines, choosing solitude over company. The rest of her evening involves her reflecting on her interaction with Robert, feeling a sudden emotional gap and becoming jealous as she pictures him with the attractive young Mexican girl.

chapter 35

Edna rises the following day, hopeful, believing her reaction to Robert's aloofness the previous night was exaggerated. She expects him to visit that afternoon or evening. She reads breakfast letters from her son Raoul and husband Leonce, who plans to come back in March for a foreign trip. She also receives a note from Alcee professing his love and belief in her reciprocation. She replies joyfully to her children but decides not to respond to Alcee, tucking his note under the maid's stove lid. Her reply to Leonce about the impending trip is noncommittal. Edna is not trying to deceive Leonce, but she can't envision the holiday or reality, considering she's handed herself over to destiny and awaits the outcome unconcerned. Robert doesn't visit for several days. Edna avoids Mademoiselle Reisz and Madame Lebrun, fearing they might assume she's desperate for Robert's company. Each day she wakes up hopeful, but goes to bed in despair. On one occasion, she accepts Alcee's offer to join him on a lake trip; afterwards, they return to her place where the growing physical closeness between them deepens. That night, she feels relieved from her gloom, yet the next morning, the hopeful feeling she's been waking up to recently isn't there.

chapter 36

Unexpectedly, Edna and Robert meet at a beloved garden café outside New Orleans. Robert is surprised and somewhat uncomfortable, but agrees to dine with Edna. Despite planning to be reserved, Edna candidly expresses her disappointment with Robert's indifference, labeling him as selfish and dismissive of her feelings. She tells him she's unafraid to share her thoughts, no matter how "unwomanly" they might appear. Robert, in return, accuses her of deriving pleasure from his suffering, demanding he "bare a wound for the pleasure of looking at it, without the intention or power of healing it.” Edna diffuses the tension by resorting to harmless chatter. Afterwards, they find themselves at the pigeon house. When Edna rejoins Robert after freshening up, she kisses him. He reciprocates, holding and kissing her back, revealing that his Mexico trip was an effort to flee from his affection for her. There, he dreamt she could be his wife if Léonce would “set her free.” Shocking Robert, Edna states that this is no dream - she isn't Léonce's property, and she'll choose who she wants to be with. Their moment is broken when Edna's servant informs her that Adèle is in labor and needs her. Assuring Robert that she only loves him and promising they'll soon “be everything to each other," she departs. Robert begs her to stay, overwhelmed by the desire to hold her, but she instructs him to wait for her return.

chapter 37

Adèle is stressed out and fatigued while she waits for her doctor. Edna starts to become uncomfortable as she recalls her own experiences of giving birth, although these memories are distant and unclear. She stays with Adèle despite her strong desire to escape. She observes the painful scene with internal suffering and intense resistance towards nature's ways. Once Adèle's sufferings end, Edna bids her goodbye with a kiss. As she departs, Adèle implores, “Think of the children, Edna. Oh think of the children!”

chapter 38

Dr. Mandelet, the same physician who treats Adèle, accompanies Edna to her pigeon house. He expresses his worry about Adèle being left in the care of another woman who might be less susceptible to influence. When he inquires about Edna's plans to travel overseas with Léonce, she firmly declines, stating her refusal to be coerced into anything anymore. She asserts that nobody can force her to do anything against her will, except maybe for the sake of her children. Despite her disjointed explanation, Dr. Mandelet comprehends her deep-seated convictions. He acknowledges that young people are prone to illusions and views sexual desire as nature's trick to ensure children's survival. He believes that primal passions exist beyond moral judgements. Before leaving, Dr. Mandelet offers to lend Edna a sympathetic ear if she ever finds herself in trouble. While admitting that she often feels distressed, Edna is reluctant to discuss her sadness. She simply desires freedom, no matter the cost, even if it means disregarding the feelings and biases of others. She implores the doctor not to judge her and he reassures her; he will only blame her if she fails to seek his counsel, and she should not hold herself responsible, no matter the outcome. Edna sits alone on her porch, reflecting on Adèle’s parting words and promising to consider her children after meeting with Robert the next day. However, she is devastated to find that Robert has departed, leaving behind a note that confesses, “I love you. Good-by—because I love you.” She spends the night in restless contemplation on the parlor sofa.

chapter 39

During a casual chat between Victor and Mariequita on Grand Isle, they spot Edna approaching. Despite the chilly weather, Edna has come for solitude and relaxation. She intends to lunch with them later and heads for a solitary swim, disregarding their warnings about the frigid water. Earlier, she had reflected on her love for Robert, her apathy towards Léonce, and her realization that her children are her only true connection to her constrained existence. However, Edna's contemplations change as she strolls along the shoreline. Spotting a wounded bird tumbling into the waves, she dons her forgotten swimsuit. Alone, she undresses and for the first time she stands unclad in nature, feeling like a new creature in a world it doesn't recognize. Immersing herself into the sea, she thinks about Léonce, her children, Robert, and Mademoiselle Reisz’s assertion that artists should have brave souls. She ponders over Robert's letter, convinced he never truly knew her and now it's too late for Doctor Mandelet to understand either. Fatigue catches up with her, childhood memories fill her mind as she succumbs to the vast sea.

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