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”The Awakening” by Kate Chopin Argumentative

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  • Pages: 40
  • Word count: 9812
  • Category: Awakening

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Chapter Sixteen

1 How does Edna spend much of her time after Robert leaves?
Edna spent much of her time swimming, since she had recently learned to swim and enjoyed the sense of freedom it gave her.

“She spent much of her time in the water since she had acquired finally the art of swimming.” (P 16)

  1. What does she say or do that shows the depth of her feelings for Robert and her awareness of a change within herself?

Edna visits Madame LeBrun and asks questions about the family with passionate interest.

“She went up in the mornings to Madame Lebrun’s room, braving the clatter of the old sewing-machine. She sat there and chatted at intervals as Robert had done. She gazed around the room at the pictures and photographs hanging upon the wall, and discovered in some corner an old family album, which she examined with the keenest interest, appealing to Madame Lebrun for enlightenment concerning the many figures and faces which she discovered between its pages. “(P 16)

3 How are Mademoiselle Reisz and Adele Ratignolle foils to Edna?

Edna is caught between them in temperaments. They demonstrate 1) the passionate, artistic personality, and 2) the conservative personality accepted by New Orleans society.

Edna lives in the second and wants to live like the first.

  1. What does she learn from Mademoiselle Reisz about Robert and Victor LeBrun?

Robert and Victor had a fight over a Spanish girl and her attentions to Robert. Victor had tried to spoil the possibility of a relationship between her and Robert. It seems that Victor likes to taunt Robert and interfere with his relationships by doing so. Robert is conservative and behavior -conscious regarding class status and rank, and Victor rather makes fun of him for it.

“’I thought he had great patience with his brother,’ offered Edna, glad to be talking about Robert, no matter what was said.

‘Oh! he thrashed him well enough a year or two ago,’ said Mademoiselle. ‘It was about a Spanish girl, whom Victor considered that he had some sort of claim upon. He met Robert one day talking to the girl, or walking with her, or bathing with her, or carrying her basket—I don’t remember what;—and he became so insulting and abusive that Robert gave him a thrashing on the spot that has kept him comparatively in order for a good while. It’s about time he was getting another.’”  (pg 16)

  1. How is the following quotation an example of foreshadowing? Edna says, “I would give up the nonessential; I would give my money, I would give my life far my children; but I wouldn’t give myself…”

This passage shows that Edna would be willing to leave her children, because she values herself as a person and will not sacrifice herself to them as a subservient. She has her own life now. She does leave them in the end.

Chapter Seventeen 

  1. What is the setting for Chapter Seventeen? How is this a contrast to the previous setting?

The setting in this chapter is New Orleans, specifically at the Pontellier’s beautifully appointed home. It is Leonce’s “home turf.”

“The Pontellier’s possessed a very charming home on Esplanade Street in New Orleans. It was a large, double cottage, with a broad front veranda, whose round, fluted columns supported the sloping roof. The house was painted a dazzling white; the outside shutters, or jalousies, were green. In the yard, which was kept scrupulously neat, were flowers and plants of every description which flourishes in South Louisiana.” (Pg 17)

  1. How is Leonce Pontellier’s attitude toward his home similar to his attitude toward his wife?

Edna is a trophy wife and Leonce’s home is a trophy house. To him, they are both only possessions that he wants all New Orleans to envy.

The cut glass, the silver, the heavy damask which daily appeared upon the table were the envy of many women whose husbands were less generous than Mr. Pontellier. (Pg 17)

  1. What is the purpose of Edna’s Tuesday “at home”? How does this change after she returns from Grand Isle, and how does this fit into the theme of rebellion?

As a wealthy society lady, Edna needs a day weekly to dedicate to herself and her many society visitors, so she makes Tuesdays her “calling day” in which all her contingent visit in the afternoon and evening:

“Mrs. Pontellier, attired in a handsome reception gown, remained in the drawing-room the entire afternoon receiving her visitors. Men sometimes called in the evening with their wives.

This had been the programme which Mrs. Pontellier had religiously followed since her marriage, six years before. Certain evenings during the week she and her husband attended the opera or sometimes the play.” (Pg 17)

  1. How does her husband react to this and other things that happen in the household, such as his complaints about the cook?

Leonce is infuriated one Tuesday when Edna left the house for a day of relaxation all to herself, instead of attending to her weekly social duties, because she could ruin business for him by being though a snob:

“‘There were a good many,’ replied Edna, who was eating her soup with evident satisfaction. ‘I found their cards when I got home; I was out.’

‘Out!’ exclaimed her husband, with something like genuine consternation in his voice as he laid down the vinegar cruet and looked at her through his glasses. ‘Why, what could have taken you out on Tuesday? What did you have to do?’

‘Nothing. I simply felt like going out, and I went out.’”  (Pg 17)

Leonce complains about the cook not being looked after, and he leaves the house to get dinner at his club.

“‘It seems to me,’ he said, ‘we spend money enough in this house to procure at least one meal a day which a man could eat and retain his self-respect.’

‘You used to think the cook was a treasure,’ returned Edna, indifferently. “…

“I’m going to get my dinner at the club. Good night.” (Pg 17)

  1. What does Edna do after Leonce leaves?

Edna dines alone, and goes to her room, where she removes her wedding ring, throws it to the carpet and stomps on it without effect, and then takes a crystal vase and smashes it against a wall:

“In a sweeping passion she seized a glass vase from the table and flung it upon the tiles of the hearth. She wanted to destroy something. The crash and clatter were what she wanted to hear. “(Pg 18)

  1. What is the significance of Edna taking off her wedding ring and then putting it back on?

Edna wants to be completely independent of Leonce as a person and removes the ring. However, she remembers her “duty” in society as his wife and replaces it on her finger. She cannot yet make a break with any of it.

Chapter Eighteen

  1. Edna visits the home of Adele Ratignolle in New Orleans, How is the Ratignolle marriage a contrast to the Pontellier marriage?

It is a traditional conservative society marriage, in which Adele sacrifices her own personality to her family, to her husband and children in a sense of duty. I addition, the husband and wife function as a single unit:

“The Ratignolles understood each other perfectly. If ever the fusion of two human beings into one has been accomplished on this sphere it was surely in their union.“ (Pg 18)

  1. How does Edna feel about a marriage such as Adele’s?

Edna appreciates the harmony present in the family, but she feels some pitty for Adele, because she believes Adele is leading a boring existence.

“There was something which Edna thought very French, very foreign, about their whole manner of living.… Edna felt depressed rather than soothed after leaving them. The little glimpse of domestic harmony which had been offered her, gave her no regret, no longing. It was not a condition of life which fitted her, and she could see in it but an appalling and hopeless ennui.” (Pg 18)

Chapter Nineteen

  1. How does Edna spend most of her time in this section of the book?

Edna does exactly what she feels like doing, abandoning her social and domestic duties, preferring to pain and take other daily pleasures as she found them.

  1. What is Leonce’s reaction?

Leonce becomes angry and disgusted that she cannot keep up with her duties as well as paint:

“‘I feel like painting,’ answered Edna. ‘Perhaps I shan’t always feel like it.’

‘Then in God’s name paint! but don’t let the family go to the devil. There’s Madame Ratignolle; because she keeps up her music, she doesn’t let everything else go to chaos. And she’s more of a musician than you are a painter.’

‘She isn’t a musician, and I’m not a painter. It isn’t on account of painting that I let things go.’

‘On account of what, then?’

‘Oh! I don’t know. Let me alone; you bother me.’” (Pg 19)

  1. How does Edna feel about her painting?

Painting is her own preference and makes her feel like her own person, able to give expression to some of her likes, dislikes, and passions. She feels that she deserves to be able to pain when she wants to do so.

  1. Although she is haunted by memories of Grand Isle, how does she manage to “enjoy” her life?

Edna is sad and bored in her daily life and misses Grand Isle and Robert and their temporary joy.

“She could hear again the ripple of the water, the flapping sail. She could see the glint of the moon upon the bay… A subtle current of desire passed through her body, weakening her hold upon the brushes and making her eyes burn… There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why,—when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation. She could not work on such a day, nor weave fancies to stir her pulses and warm her blood.” (Pg 19)

Chapter Twenty

1 Why does Edna go to the LeBrun home in New Orleans?

Edna visits the LeBruns in order to find out information about Robert, because she hears the Madame LeBrun has returned to New Orleans and Edna sees it the best, quickest opportunity to seek the information.

  1. How is this house described? In what way is the description related to Edna’s desire for Robert?

The LeBrun house looks as though it is a prison or jailhouse – somewhere that people are kept locked away from society. It looks like a place that is hard to enter, just as it is hard for Edna to gain contact with Robert.

“Their home from the outside looked like a prison, with iron bars before the door and lower windows. The iron bars were a relic of the old regime, and no one had ever thought of dislodging them. At the side was a high fence enclosing the garden. A gate or door opening upon the street was locked.” (Pg 20)

  1. Edna meets Robert’s brother, Victor. How is Victor a kind of exaggeration of Robert?

Victor lives on the island all winter, whereas Robert only visits in the summertime. He also is more aggressive with females than Robert and likes to brag and tell colorful stories about his sexual conquests of them. Robert, on the other hand, is discrete and provides a single lady per summer with verbal and marginal physical affection, but does not go any further than that and does not discuss it

“He stayed all winter at the island; he lived there, and kept the place in order and got things ready for the summer visitors…. Of course, he couldn’t think of telling Mrs. Pontellier all about it, she being a woman and not comprehending such things. But it all began with a girl peeping and smiling at him through the shutters as he passed by. Oh! but she was a beauty! Certainly he smiled back, and went up and talked to her. Mrs. Pontellier did not know him if she supposed he was one to let an opportunity like that escape him.” (Pg 20)

  1. What does Edna learn about Robert while she is there? Why does this depress her?

Robert writes his mother that he is tending to business matters in Vera Cruz and Mexico city and all is going rather well for him, he feels, because at least his prospects are better there than in New Orleans. This depresses Edna, because he has not mentioned her at all in the letters and she also has not heard from him directly:

“That was about the substance of the two letters. Edna felt that if there had been a message for her, she would have received it.” (Pg 20)


Chapter Twenty-one

  1. Describe the apartment of Mademoiselle Reisz. Is the apartment symbolic of another way of life, less stifling and confining?

The apartment is symbolic of freedom, light, and simplicity. It is a safe and small, individualistic place:

“There were plenty of windows in her little front room. They were for the most part dingy, but as they were nearly always open it did not make so much difference. They often admitted into the room a good deal of smoke and soot; but at the same time all the light and air that there was came through them…. A magnificent piano crowded the apartment. In the next room she slept, and in the third and last she harbored a gasoline stove on which she cooked her meals…. It was there also that she ate, keeping her belongings in a rare old buffet, dingy and battered from a hundred years of use. “

  1. How does Mademoiselle Reisz react when Edna talks about her painting?
  2. Reisz tells Edna what it really takes to be an artist, including natural talent and courage:

“I do not know you well enough to say. I do not know your talent or your temperament. To be an artist includes much; one must possess many gifts—absolute gifts—which have not been acquired by one’s own effort. And, moreover, to succeed, the artist must possess the courageous soul.”  (Pg 21)

  1. What is the content of a letter Robert has written to Mademoiselle Reisz?

The letter asks about Edna and holds a request for M. Reisz to play the Impromtu and inform Robert of Edna’s reaction to it.

  1. What is Edna’s reaction?

Edna sobs and drops Robert’s letter to the floor after she has read it: “Mademoiselle reentered and lit a candle. Robert’s letter was on the floor. She stooped and picked it up. It was crumpled and damp with tears.” (Pg 21)

  1. What is the attitude of Mademoiselle Reisz at this time?
  2. Reizs is encouraging and supporting toward Edna and her awakening of artistic talent and courage in becoming independent.

Chapter Twenty-two

1 How do the actions and comments of Leonce and Doctor Mandelet illustrate the following theme: that men cannot understand women? Cite specific references to the text to support your answer.

Both men say that Edna looks and acts well, but is having some kind of mood affecting her ability to concentrate on household affairs and duties:

“It would require an inspired psychologist to deal successfully with them. And when ordinary fellows like you and me attempt to cope with their idiosyncrasies the result is bungling.” (Pg 22)

  1. What advice does Doctor Mandelet give Leonce?

The Doctor advises to give Edna her space and wait for her mood to pass, but also to send her up to see him for an appointment:

“’Pontellier,’ said the Doctor, after a moment’s reflection, ‘let your wife alone for a while. Don’t bother her, and don’t let her bother you. Woman, my dear friend, is a very peculiar and delicate organism—a sensitive and highly organized woman, such as I know Mrs. Pontellier to be, is especially peculiar. ‘”(Pg 22)

  1. What does the doctor suspect but never say to Leonce?

The Doctor suspects that Edna is having a love affair with another man.

Chapter Twenty-three


  1. What do Edna and her father share as a common interest?

Both of them like the races and going to the racetrack. They enjoy horses, since He owns a horse farm and she grew up around horses.

  1. How is her father’s dress and appearance characteristic of him as a person?

His clothing is very military and gives him an air of command. In truth, he does control the lives of his family members – his wife and children at home.

  1. How does Adele treat Edna’s father? What is Edna’s reaction?

Adele is very flirty and over-flattering to the Colonel, and Edna is astounded that a woman can behave in this manner, or understanding it herself.

4 What observations does Doctor Mandelet make when he comes to the Pontellier home to meet Edna’s father and to observe her?

Specifically, Doctor Mandelet could find nothing wroing with Edna: “When Doctor Mandelet dined with the Pontelliers on Thursday he could discern in Mrs. Pontellier no trace of that morbid condition which her husband had reported to him.” (Pg 23)

  1. Describe the stories told by the following people during the evening: Leonce, the Colonel, and Edna.

The Colonel describes Civil War times, Leonce recalls his youth, and the Doctor describes a female patient who comes to her senses after pursuing multiple empty relationships. Edna responds to this with a of an independent woman who disappears into the islands with her lover.

  1. What is the doctor’s reaction to the evening and to Edna’s story? How is this an example of foreshadowing?

The Doctor is fairly sure that Edna is having adulterous affairs, but is not sure with whom or how many, and she indeed has had several affairs. Edna pretends to have heard her tale from Madame Antoine, and the Doctor is the only one who understands the possible future impact of the story:  On the way home, he says, “I hope to heaven it isn’t Alcee Arobin.” (Pg 23)


Chapter Twenty-four


  1. What is Edna’s attitude toward her sister’s wedding? How do her father and Leonce react to this?

Edna does not want to attend the wedding and feels that weddings are lamentable. Leonce leaves her alone, as the Doctor has suggested, but the Colonel gives him this advise:

“You are too lenient, too lenient by far, Leonce,” asserted the Colonel. “Authority, coercion are what is needed. Put your foot down good and hard; the only way to manage a wife. Take my word for it.” (Pg 24)

2 Compare Edna’s father to Leonce.

Both men are controlling toward their households, wives, and children. Their families are a type of possession to them. Both men are serous and not usually much fun.

  1. What is different about Edna’s attitude toward Leonce both before and after he leaves for the wedding?

Edna begins to soften toward Leonce before he want away: “She was solicitous about his health…. She bustled around, looking after his clothing, thinking about heavy underwear, quite as Madame Ratignolle would have done…. She cried… calling him her dear, good friend, and she was quite certain she would grow lonely before very long and go to join him in New York.” (Pg 24)

After Leonce leaves, Edna feels not lonely, but at joyful peace: But after all, a radiant peace settled upon her when she at last found herself alone. (Pg 24)

  1. Why does she act this way?

Edna acts according to her feelings as they change, so her behavior changes as well form hot to cold, so to speak.

5 Where are Edna’s children? How does she feel about being alone?

The children went away to Iberville with Leonce’s mother to enjoy the country and this makes Edna feel relaxed and free: “When Edna was at last alone, she breathed a big, genuine sigh of relief. A feeling that was unfamiliar but very delicious came over her.” (Pg 24)

Chapter Twenty-five

  1. Who is Alcee Arobin?

Alcee Arobin is a fashionable young man with whom women want to be seen. He has his name on a Lawyer’s single, although he is not an attorney atall. He is manipulative and had this done to raise his public image.

  1. How does he feel about his past encounters with Edna? What is different now?

He felt her unapproachable previously, but no longer. Her husband is out of town, and he wants to get to now her better. Her social status is exciting to him: “Arobin caught the contagion of excitement which drew him to Edna like a magnet.” (Pg 25)

  1. Describe Edna’s reaction to the races.

Edna loves the races because she grew up learning as much or more about them and their horses than any man. She is an authority that is recognized by the people.

  1. Describe Edna’s behavior after her evening with Alcee.

Edna is flattered and excited by the attentions of Alcee. She is agitated and hungry again. The hunger may represent sexual desire:

“Edna felt extremely restless and excited. She vacantly hummed a fantastic tune as she poked at the wood embers on the hearth and munched a cracker.” (Pg 25)

Fire is often symbolic of sexual desire, and here Edna is poking at it with a stick.

  1. How does the relationship between Edna and Alcee develop?

Alcee invites Edna again to the races with himself and Mrs. Highcamp, but shows up alone:

“When, a few days later, Alcee Arobin again called for Edna in his drag, Mrs. Highcamp was not with him. He said they would pick her up. But as that lady had not been apprised of his intention of picking her up, she was not at home.” (Pg 25)

  1. What thoughts does Edna have about Robert and about her husband?

Edna remembers that she has not written her daily letter to her husband, but she does not think much about the children.  She thinks more about Robert:

“She did not mean her husband; she was thinking of Robert Lebrun. Her husband seemed to her now like a person whom she had married without love as an excuse.” (Pg 25)

  1. Give examples of Chopin’s use of sensual language in this chapter.

“He stood close to her, and the effrontery in his eyes repelled the old, vanishing self in her, yet drew all her awakening sensuousness. He saw enough in her face to impel him to take her hand and hold it while he said his lingering good night.”

“Edna felt extremely restless and excited.”

“My own emotions have done that. I couldn’t help it. When I’m near you, how could I help it?”

“When she was alone she looked mechanically at the back of her hand which he had kissed so warmly. Then she leaned her head down on the mantelpiece. She felt somewhat like a woman who in a moment of passion is betrayed into an act of infidelity, and realizes the significance of the act without being wholly awakened from its glamour.”

“Alcee Arobin was absolutely nothing to her. Yet his presence, his manners, the warmth of his glances, and above all the touch of his lips upon her hand had acted like a narcotic upon her.” (Pg 25)

  1. How would readers in the time period of the novel react to this language.

Readers 100-150 years ago would probably be shocked and dismayed, perhaps embarrassed by this language.

Chapter Twenty-six

  1. As their meetings continue, in what way does Edna allow Alcee to speak to her? Cite a quotation.

Edna attempts to keep the relationship light and easy, but it does not work because Alcee is very manipulative and aggressive, inching his way into her life:

“She grew accustomed to him. They became intimate and friendly by imperceptible degrees, and then by leaps. He sometimes talked in a way that astonished her at first and brought the crimson into her face; in a way that pleased her at last, appealing to the animalism that stirred impatiently within her.” (Pg 26)

  1. Why does Edna visit Mademoselle Reisz?

Edna is disturbed by Alcee all around and goes to M. Reisz for encouragement and support: “There was nothing which so quieted the turmoil of Edna’s senses as a visit to Mademoiselle Reisz. It was then, in the presence of that personality which was offensive to her, that the woman, by her divine art, seemed to reach Edna’s spirit and set it free.” (Pg 26)

  1. What decision has Edna made? Why does she decide this?

Edna decides to move out of Leonce’s mansion and live on her own, “Then flinging herself upon the uncomfortable sofa she said, “Mademoiselle, I am going to move away from my house on Esplanade Street.” (Pg 26) She is disturbed by her awakening passions and Leonce’s indifference toward her and needs to explore her life alone.

  1. What does Edna decide to do before leaving?

Edna decides to move into the tiny house of four rooms located around the corner from Leonce’s mansion. There, she will have an art studio and be able to see Robert when he returns. M. Reisz has a small apartment and Edna willl have a small house to match.

  1. From his letters (sent to Mademoiselle Reisz), what does Edna learn about Robert’s plans?

Robert is returning to New Orleans, but does not say when.

  1. What comment does Mademoiselle Reisz make about Robert. In addition, how does Edna react to her comment?

  1. Reisz states that Robert is trying to forget that he loves Edna, and Edna is very upset and sys that M. Reisz should have told her of Robert’s love.

  1. What does Edna do for her children and for her husband?

Edna buys expensive candy for her sons and writes an inappropriately cheerful letter to her husband:

“She stopped at a confectioner’s and ordered a huge box of bonbons for the children in Iberville. She slipped a card in the box, on which she scribbled a tender message and sent an abundance of kisses. Before dinner in the evening Edna wrote a charming letter to her husband, telling him of her intention to move for a while into the little house around the block…” (Page 26)

  1. What has Edna not taken into consideration?

Edna has not considered that she might hurt her family m or that Robert may not want to see her when he returns.

Chapter Twenty-seven

  1. What happens in the developing relationship between Edna and Alcee?

Edna and Alcee become romantic, and this romance ignites a burning sexual passion in Edna for the first time, a passion in which she is able to respond from that awakened nature:

“She only looked at him and smiled. His eyes were very near. He leaned upon the lounge with an arm extended across her, while the other hand still rested upon her hair. They continued silently to look into each other’s eyes. When he leaned forward and kissed her, she clasped his head, holding his lips to hers. It was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch that kindled desire.” (Pg 27) 

Chapter Twenty-eight

  1. This is the shortest chapter in the book, less than one page. How does Chopin present the consummation of Edna and Alcee’s relationship? After the passionate kiss with Alcee, what does Edna realize about herself?

The consummation is presented as a passion kiss, with anything further relegated to the reader’s imagination. Edna realizes that she ahs a sexual nature and that sex does not equal love:

“Above all, there was understanding. She felt as if a mist had been lifted from her eyes…life, that monster made up of beauty and brutality. But among the conflicting sensations…was neither shame nor remorse. There was a dull pang of regret because it was not the kiss of love which had inflamed her, because it was not love which had held this cup of life to her lips.”(Pg 28) 

Chapter Twenty-nine

  1. What does Edna do in order to early out her plan to leave Leonce? How does this illustrate the theme of independence?

Edna did not wait for a reply from Leonce, and on her own, began packing her things and planned to move into the small house nearby. She also put up a ladder there and began cleaning and refurbishing. It was to be her own house.

  1. When Alcee visits her that afternoon, how is Edna very much in command of the situation?

Alcee asks her to come down from the ladder so that she does not harm herself, and she refuses.

She finally agrees to let him go up the ladder in her place, however. She is in charge:

“So it was he who in turn mounted the ladder, unhooking pictures and curtains, and dislodging ornaments as Edna directed.” (Pg 29)

  1. How does Edna appear as a different person now?

Edna seems brave, strong, determined, and positive or proactive in her own life and her developing mastery of it:

“If he [Alcee] had expected to find her languishing, reproachful, or indulging in sentimental tears, he must have been greatly surprised.” (Pg 29)

Chapter Thirty

  1. Who are the guests who attend the dinner?

Her guests include high-society racetrack friends, Mr. and Mrs. Merriman, Mrs. Highcamp, Mademoiselle Reisz, Victor Lebrun, Alcee, the intellectual Miss Mayblunt, newspaperman Gouvernail, and Adele’s husband.

  1. List the guests who do not appear and the reason they do not attend.

Madame LeBrun never attends and always sends last minute regrets. Madame Ratignolle was sacrificing herself to her family and could not attend anything for her own enjoyment. Adele cannot attend the dinner, because she is in the ninth month of pregnancy and may deliver at any moment:

“Adele, who is unable to come because she is nearing the end of her pregnancy, sends her husband in her place.” (Pg 30)

3 Describe the setting for the dinner: the table, the furnishings, and the overall atmosphere. What does this tell the reader about Edna’s decision to leave?

Edna’s decision to leave has something to do with her feeling of being weighed down and restricted by Leonce’s mansion, servants, children, and possessions. She therefore uses more comfortable chairs and the brightest, almost sparkling furnishings and thereby illustrates her awakening and independence:

“There was something extremely gorgeous about the appearance of the table, an effect of splendor conveyed by a cover of pale yellow satin under strips of lace-work. There were wax candles, in massive brass candelabra, burning softly under yellow silk shades; full, fragrant roses, yellow and red, abounded. There were silver and gold, as she had said there would be, and crystal which glittered like the gems which the women wore. “ (Pg 30)

  1. How is Edna dressed, and how does she look?

Edna is beautiful, with a new cluster of diamonds in her hair and a golden gown.  She looks regal and very much in charge:

“The golden shimmer of Edna’s satin gown spread in rich folds…. There was a soft fall of lace encircling her shoulders. It was the color of her skin, without the glow, the myriad living tints that one may sometimes discover in vibrant flesh. There was something in her attitude, in her whole appearance…which suggested the regal woman, the one who rules, who looks on, who stands alone.” (Pg 30)

  1. How does Edna feel during the evening?

It is her birthday and she is actually subdued in humor, depressed and dissatisfied with her life:

“But as she sat there amid her guests, she felt the old ennui overtaking her; the hopelessness which so often assailed her, which came upon her like an obsession, like something extraneous, independent of volition.” (Pg 30)

  1. How are sensory images of sound and smell used?

The sensory images produce relaxation and pleasure until Victor sings, “If you only knew,” which infuriates Edna and fills her with dreadful despair and sadness.

  1. How is Victor dressed and what does his clothing mean symbolically?

Victor becomes “a vision of Oriental beauty” (Pg 30), adorned with a garland of roses and a silk scarf by Mrs. Highcamp. This may be symbolic of untried fruits of passion for Edna, and of art and her awakening to it.

  1. What does the following quotation indicate about the evening? ‘The voices of Edna’s disbanding guests jarred like a discordant note upon the quiet harmony of the night.” (PG 30)

This passage point to the fact that Edna is still not happy in her life, and feels a discordance and dissatisfaction with it and the relationships she has in it. She wishes Leonce were different, and she wishes Robert was her husband.

Chapter Thirty-one

  1. What are Edna’s dual feelings as she and Alcee clean up after everyone leaves?

Alcee stays with Edna after everyone has left and assists her as she shuts up the big house.

He accompanies her to the small house, which he has filled with flowers as a surprise. He tells her he will leave, but when he feels her beginning to respond to his touch, his sits beside her and kisses her shoulders until she becomes “supple to his gentle, seductive entreaties,” seducing her. (Pg 31)

  1. What is the pigeon house? In what way is it different from Leonce’s house?

The pigeon house is a tiny house around the corner form Leonce’s New Orleans mansion.

It is small, plain, and humble, but it gives Edna her independence and freedom of expression. The mansion was large and ornate, noisy and confining at once.

  1. How does Edna feel when she enters the pigeon house with Alcee?

Edna feels unhappy, disappointed, and agitated:

“She seemed disheartened, and had nothing to say…. Edna seated herself with every appearance of discomfort….’Yes, and chilled, and miserable. I feel as if I had been wound up to a certain pitch—too tight—and something inside of me had snapped.’” (Pg 31)

  1. In what ways has Alcee invaded Edna’s personal space?

Alcee had her small house filled with flowers without her knowing about it. She was surprised when she saw them. This action form Alcee was an intrusion, a crossing of personal boundaries without permission. In a way it was a violation of Edna. Subsequently, Alcee did not leave to allow Edna to rest, but proceeded to seduce her because she was tired, also an invasion:

“He did not answer, except to continue to caress her. He did not say good night until she had become supple to his gentle, seductive entreaties.” (Pg 31)


Chapter Thirty-two


  1. What incidents show Leonce’s concern with appearance? What steps does he take to avoid scandal?

Leonce writes a blistering letter in reply to Edna’s move to the house around the corner. He does not care why, but only worries that people will think he is having financial problems. In a fit of image management, Leonce arranges to have his home remodeled by a renowned architect. In the local paper, Leonce places an announcement of his plans to take a vacation abroad with Edna while the home makeover is completed:

“He was simply thinking of his financial integrity. It might get noised about that the Pontelliers had met with reverses, and were forced to conduct their menage on a humbler scale than heretofore. It might do incalculable mischief to his business prospects…. Furthermore, in one of the daily papers appeared a brief notice to the effect that Mr. and Mrs. Pontellier were contemplating a summer sojourn abroad, and that their handsome residence on Esplanade Street was undergoing sumptuous alterations, and would not be ready for occupancy until their return. Mr. Pontellier had saved appearances!”(Pg 32)

  1. How does Edna feel in her new home?

Edna is happy in her new home and new life as an independent, separate person from Leonce:

“The pigeon house pleased her. It at once assumed the intimate character of a home, while she herself invested it with a charm which it reflected like a warm glow.”(Pg 32)

  1. How does Edna react to her visit with her children?

She visits her children at their grandmother’s house, truly enjoys herself, daydreams of the children’s voices, and thinks of their excitement all the way back home.

In her husband’s continued absence, Edna feels her individual personality and spirituality growing. She visits her children at their grandmother’s home in Iberville and enjoys herself so much that she continues to recall their voices and excitement during the return trip to New Orleans.

  1. What is her feeling when she returns to the pigeon house?

Edna feels strong and independent: “Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual.” (Pg 32)

Edna also feels that she has sunk lower on the social scale because she has moved into the little house, and because she misses her children after her visit with them. She would like to have a happy marriage in which she can also be a separate individual, but this cannot happen in current New Orleans society.

Chapter Thirty-three


  1. What warning does Adele give to Edna when she visits her at the pigeon house? What is Edna’s attitude?

Being a model of the conservative high society wife and mother-woman, Adele warns Edna against having men in the pigeon house and being viewed as an adulterer by the public, who will gossip:

“As she leaves, she warns Edna to be careful of her reputation, as there is gossip about Alcee’s visits and “his attentions alone are . . . enough to ruin a woman’s name.” (Pg 33)

  1. What request does Adele make of Edna?

Adele asks Edna to spend more time with her and to ignore her criticisms of Alcee Arobin:

“’Don’t neglect me,’ entreated Madame Ratignolle; “and don’t mind what I said about Arobin, or having some one to stay with you.” (Pg 33)

  1. Why is Edna upset when she sees Robert at Mademoiselle Reisz’s apartment?

Edna has heard nothing from Robert directly or indirectly since he left for Mexico, yet he is in town and visiting other women. She had thought he would have come rushing to her the moment he had returned to New Orleans:

“A hundred times Edna had pictured Robert’s return, and imagined their first meeting. It was usually at her home, whither he had sought her out at once. She always fancied him expressing or betraying in some way his love for her.” (Pg 33)

  1. How does Robert act during this meeting?

Roberts behaves in a nervous and evasive sort of way. He is also distant, twirling around on the piano stool instead of having a serious conversation with Edna.

  1. What excuse does he give for not writing to Edna during his absence? Why do you think he says this?

Robert states that she would not find his letters interesting:

‘Do you remember that you promised to write to me when you went away?’ A flush overspread his whole face.

‘I couldn’t believe that my letters would be of any interest to you.’

‘That is an excuse; it isn’t the truth….’” (Pg 33)

  1. Later, during dinner at the pigeon house, what does Edna learn is the reason for Robert’s return? How does she feel?

Robert has returned, because he was not able to make more money in Mexico than in New Orleans, and he preferred to be at home. He did not return to see Edna, and she is disappointed – shocked, really.

  1. What is the feeling between them at the end of this chapter?

There is intense jealousy between them, Robert toward Edna and Alcee, and Edna of a Hispanic girl’s interest in Robert. For the rest of the evening she dwells on Robert, feeling suddenly distant from him and moved by pangs of jealousy as she imagines him with a beautiful young Mexican girl.

Chapter Thirty-four

  1. How do Edna and Robert act during dinner?

During dinner, Edna and Robert lose their earlier honesty and cheer and become stiff and ceremonious. She is hurt and angry that he has not communicated wither and he is hurt that she cannot be his wife, that Leonce will not free her. He feels tortured. Robert is jealous because Alcee’s picture is there, suggesting an affair.

  1. How does Robert’s tobacco pouch, add to the tension?

Edna questions Robert about the young Mexican girl whose gift of a tobacco pouch has become the topic of discussion. Edna is jealous.

  1. How does Alcee Arobin act when he drops by the cottage to give Edna a message from Mrs. Merrinian?

Alcee begins speaking about Mexican girls and how seductive they are: “’But not well enough to keep you there. Stunning girls, though, in Mexico. I thought I should never get away from Vera Cruz when I was down there a couple of years ago.’” (Pg 34)

  1. What is Robert’s reaction?

Roberts becomes very cold to Edna and probably angry towards Alcee. After all, he had just accused Edna of have a relationship with Alcee earlier.

“‘I’ve been imposing myself long enough,’ said Robert, rising, and shaking hands with Edna. ‘Please convey my regards to Mr. Pontellier when you write.’ He shook hands with Arobin and went away. “(Pg 34)

5, Why does Robert mention Mr. Pontellier before he leaves’?

Robert wants to warn Alcee off from spending time with Edna by reminding him that Edna is married. At the same time, Robert wants Alcee to understand that he (Robert) also knows that Edna is married and it is against convention to have an adulterous relationship with a New Orleans lady.

  1. How do Edna and Alcee act after he leaves?

Alcee asks Edna to go for a late drive, but she refuses and sends him away: “’No; I don’t want to do anything but just be quiet. You go away and amuse yourself. Don’t stay.’”(Pg 34)

  1. What verbal exchange takes place before Alcee leaves?

Edna hears Alcee’s words of untrue adoration and devotion from Alcee:

“”I’ll go away if I must; but I shan’t amuse myself. You know that I only live when I am near you.’

He stood up to bid her good night.

‘Is that one of the things you always say to women?’

‘I have said it before, but I don’t think I ever came so near meaning it,’ he answered with a smile.”(Pg 34)

  1. After Alcee leaves, what are her thoughts about her reunion with Robert?

She remembers the entire reunion like a movie playing over and over in her mind. Edna is very upset that Robert paid little attention to her and probably had been having a sexual relationship with a Mexican girl. She wants him for herself, but does not have him at all”

“She writhed with a jealous pang. She wondered when he would come back. He had not said he would come back. She had been with him, had heard his voice and touched his hand. But some way he had seemed nearer to her off there in Mexico.” (Pg 34)

Chapter Thirty-five

  1. How does Edna feel the next morning?

The next morning Edna awakes with hope, convinced that she has overreacted to what she perceived as Robert’s reserve of the night before. She tells herself that she will undoubtedly receive a visit from him that afternoon or evening.

  1. How does Chopin use a clothing image here to represent Edna’s feeling of freedom?

Chopin writes that Edna wore only half her clothing to breakfast.  The shawl her son sends to her is “delicious” (Pg 35), reinforcing the notion that freedom tastes good and one can appreciate art when free.

3 What three letters does Edna receive that morning?

Edna received letters from Alcee (speaking of his devotion to her), Raoul (describing the fun of new piglets being born at the country house), and Leonce (stating he will return in March for their trip abroad).

  1. What happens in Edna’s relationships with Robert and Alcee?

Bother relationships lose the hope of ever becoming fulfilling, proactive, or happy for Edna. Robert stays away and Alcee is more aggressive and goes to see Edna and : “It was late when he left her. It was getting to be more than a passing whim with Arobin to see her…”(Pg 35)

  1. What would have been the effect of the following comment in 1899 about Alcee: “he had detected the latent sensuality, which unfolded under his delicate sense of her nature’s requirements like a torpid, torpid, sensitive blossom.”


The readership of 1899 would have though this passage to be blatantly sexual and inappropriate.

However, it may have led some readers into their own sense of “awakening” to discover different kinds of language, art, and life; although they might not admit it outright. 

Chapter Thirty-six

  1. How is the garden in the suburbs used as a symbol in this chapter?

The garden café is a microcosm of the lush, garden-like quality of Grand Isle and of Edna’s dream as a child, in which she is running away from restrictive confinement through a field.

  1. During her encounter with Robert, what does Edna realize is true about his feelings for her? Why do you think this presents a problem for him?

Edna discovers that Robert is indifferent to her passion for him, and that he feels that she is cruel.

  1. In what way is the new Edna much more unconventional than Robert?

Edna will now openly date another man besides her husband, whereas Robert is accustomed to flirting harmlessly with married women, not to be taken seriously. Edna is more direct and aggressive, more like a man in the eyes of society with her comments and actions:

“’Why have you kept away from me, Robert?’ she asked, closing the book that lay open upon the table.” (Pg 36)

She finally kisses Robert and he responds in kind and then speaks: “Now you know,” he said, “now you know what I have been fighting against since last summer at Grand Isle; what drove me away and drove me back again.” (Pg 36)

  1. What is ironic about his insistence on leaving when she gets the message from Adele?

Robert insists on leaving, when all along he seemed to want to marry Edna, and now that she has said she is free to marry him, he wants to escape.

  1. How is her response an example of irony?

Edna tells Robert to wait because she will return, and she seems to know that he will not wait.

She says: “’I love you,’ she whispered, ‘only you; no one but you. It was you who awoke me last summer out of a life-long, stupid dream.’” (Pg 36)

Chapter Thirty-seven

  1. What are Edna’s feelings while she watches Adele prepare for the birth of her child?

Edna is at first uneasy, and then is repulsed by the experience of this childbirth.

  1. What kind of warning does Adele give to Edna?

Adele whispers earnestly, “Think of the children, Edna. Oh think of the children!” (Pg 37)

  1. What effect does witnessing this birth scene have on Edna?

Edna is disturbed by memories of her own childbirth experiences and she wants to leave.

She feels that this is a torture scene.

  1. What conversations do Edna and Dr. Mandelet have when he walks her home?

The Doctor tells Edna the childbirth was too cruel for her to watch. Then he tells her that young men are not serious about women in relationships very often and should be avoided: “’The trouble is,’ sighed the Doctor, grasping her meaning intuitively, “that youth is given up to illusions. It seems to be a provision of Nature; a decoy to secure mothers for the race. And Nature takes no account of moral consequences…’” (Pg 37)

Chapter Thirty-eight

  1. What is Edna’s frame of mind as she returns home after her conversation with Doctor Mandelet?

Edna is despondent over the Doctor’s conversation with her.  He voices his concern that another, less impressionable, woman ought to have stayed with Adele. He asks Edna if she will go abroad with Leonce, and Edna replies that she will not and that she refuses to be forced into anything anymore. She wants to be independent and left alone about it, not counseling by everyone.

  1. Who does Edna hope is waiting for her at the cottage?

Edna hopes that Robert will be waiting for her at the cottage.

  1. What does she find instead? What do you think Robert means?

Edna finds a note from Robert saying that he has left because he loves her. He means that he has left because he does not want to hurt her and does not want to experience any more pain, himself.

“To her dismay, Robert has left, and there is a note that reads, “I love you. Good-by – because I love you,” in his place. Edna stretches out on the parlor sofa and lies awake all night.” (Pg 38)

  1. How does Edna spend the rest of the evening?

Edna spends all night lying awake on the sofa.

Chapter Thirty-nine


  1. How is the setting for the last chapter appropriate?

The setting is that of Grand Isle, where Edna made her first awakening to her own passions and potential. Thus, the story ends at the beginning, so to speak.

  1. What is the subject of conversation between Victor and Mariéquita?

The next day, on Grand Isle, Victor and Mariequita flirt and discuss Edna’s dinner party while Victor does construction work.

They are discussing Edna’s dinner party.

3 What picture has Victor given of Edna? How is this ironic?

Victor keeps describing her birthday dinner party, I which she wore new diamonds from her husband and seemed regal and in charge, but was really moving away from all that and feeling isolated in her independence. She appears “together” but is actually “coming apart.”

4 How would you describe Edna’s demeanor at this time?

Edna is indifferent, yet preoccupied, as if she is intent upon some action, calm, and not to be dissuaded from it.

  1. What does she give them as the reason for her visit?

Edna uses for an excuse the flimsy notion that she needed to get away for a rest.

  1. What does she say she intends to do before dinner? What is their response to this?

Even though it is cold outside, Edna says she is going for a swim before dinner: “’The water is too cold!’ they both exclaimed. ‘Don’t think of it.’” (Pg 39)

7, The reader learns what that Edna thought during that last sleepless night following her return from Adele’s? What realization does she come to about herself, Leonce, her children, and Robert?

Edna wants to leave Leonce and her children and run away with Robert. Leonce does not seem to care about her – she is only an object to him. She does not want to shirk her duty to the children, but she also not sacrifice herself for them. She sees them as a limitation to her joy with Robert:

“She had said over and over to herself: ‘To-day it is Arobin; to-morrow it will be some one else. It makes no difference to me, it doesn’t matter about Leonce Pontellier—but Raoul and Etienne!’”  (Pg 39)

  1. How is Edna’s removal of her clothes as she walks down to the beach symbolic?

Edna is stripping away her old life and the bonds of life on this earth; she is freeing herself from the conventions of society and from her problems and the things that hold her back in life. “She feels like ‘some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known.” (Pg 39)

  1. Find the quotations that show the seductive nature of the ocean as described by Chopin.

“The foamy wavelets curled up to her white feet, and coiled like serpents about her ankles.”

“The water was deep, but she lifted her white body and reached out with a long, sweeping stroke.”

“The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.”

“ She did not look back now, but went on and on, thinking of the blue-grass meadow that she had traversed when a little child, believing that it had no beginning and no end.”

In the last passage above, Edna seems entranced and hypnotized by the ocean into past recall. Two additional such passages:

“Her arms and legs were growing tired.”

“Exhaustion was pressing upon and overpowering her.”

  1. Edna swims out too far, experiences one moment of terror, and then relaxes into the ocean. What thoughts does Edna have now?

Edna thinks of Robert, Leonce, and her children while she drowns: “She thought of Leonce and the children. They were a part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul.” (Pg 39)

  1. What choice has Edna made?

Edna chose suicide as a way of escaping a life that she could not continue to live once her spirit and mind had awakened to the passions of life. There were no solutions possible for her issues in New Orleans 100-150 years ago. She believes that it would be too difficult for a woman to survive on her own, especially without the love she wanted but could not have: Robert.

  1. Does Edna have any other choice, given her nature and the conventions of society at this time?

Edna might have left New Orleans to seek her fortune elsewhere alone, but it would have been a difficult task for a woman alone at this time in New Orleans society. Perhaps she could have gone to France and been successful, as other women have done, including Billie Holliday and Nichelle Nicoles in the early- to-mid-20th century.


Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. From the website of The Free Library: http://chopin.thefreelibrary.com/Awakening-and-Selected-Short-Stories. Retrieved on January 11, 2006.  (Note: Each Chapter is presented as a single page.)

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