March 13, 2016

Kate Chopin's The Awakening Chapter 1-10 (Summary)

The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin

Chapter 1

Mr. Pontellier was reading his newspaper at the main house, but the parrot's endless repetition of "allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That's all right!" irritated him so much that he went to his own cottage. Madame Lebrun was the master of the house, and let the parrot make as much noise as it wanted. Mr. Pontellier sat in front of his cottage reading yesterday's paper that he had picked up in New Orleans the day before; the Sunday paper had not yet arrived in Grande Isle.

Mr. Pontellier could hear the Farval twins playing a duet on the piano at the main house, the parrot's ceaseless chatter and singing, and Madame Lebrun ordering around the servants. The girls were playing "Zampa." Mr. Pontellier looked around him, and he saw his two boys, ages four and five, playing together with their quadroon following behind them looking like she was lost in a far away world. He lit his cigar and watched as a white umbrella was coming towards him from the beach very slowly. It was Mrs. Pontellier and Robert Lebrun. When they reached the porch they sat down tiredly, each leaning against a porch post. Mr. Pontellier commented on how silly it was to bathe so late in the day; he had gone swimming in the early morning. He looked down at his wife, who was extremely burned, as if she were a damaged piece of property. Edna examined her skin, remembering her rings, she held out her hand to her husband, and he placed the rings in her palm. The rings sparkled brilliantly in the sunlight.
Edna and Robert looked at each other and smiled a mysterious smile. Mr. Pontellier saw this, and halfheartedly asked what was going on. They tried to explain to him the adventure that they had had out in the sea, but it didn't seem so amusing when they recounted it to him.

Mr. Pontellier got up from his chair, and announced that he was going to go over to Mr. Klein's for a game of billiards. He invited Robert to go with him, but Robert said that he would rather stay there and talk with Edna. Mrs. Pontellier handed her husband and umbrella, and asked him if he would be home for dinner. He said that he may or may not; it depended on who was there. Their two sons ran after their father, begging to go with him, but he told them no. He promised to bring them back bonbons and peanuts.

Chapter 2

Robert and Edna sat there on the porch together, and as they were talking Robert was rolling a cigarette. He told her that he could not afford to smoke cigars, which is why he smoked cigarettes all the time. Mr. Pontellier had given him a cigar, which he kept in his pocket for after dinner. Edna picked up a palm-leaf fan that was on the porch so that she could cool herself down. They talked like old friends, fluttering from one subject to another. They talked about the people staying at Grande Isle, the children playing, and the Farval twins, who were now playing "The Poet and the Peasant."

Edna and Robert were both relatively young. Robert's youth caused him to tell Edna a lot about himself, while Edna spoke very little about herself. Robert had dreams of going to Mexico and making a lot of money, but in the meantime he worked as a clerk in mercantile shop, in New Orleans. He was greatly valued for his ability to communicate in English, French, and Spanish. As always, he was at Grande Isle visiting his mother for his summer vacation. The main house, at one time, was a very luxurious summer house for the Lebruns, but his mother had turned it into an exclusive vacation resort as a way to maintain her rich lifestyle.

Edna was from the Deep South. Her father had had a plantation in Mississippi, and she had lived in Kentucky as a girl. Edna would read Robert the letters she received from her sister, who spent the majority of her time in the East. Her sister had gotten engaged, without any approval from her family. Robert was very interested in Edna's family, and he asked a lot of questions about Edna and her sister's relationship, Edna's father, and about Edna's deceased mother.

Edna closed the letter from her sister, because it was time to get dressed for dinner. She said to Robert that it looked like her husband was not going to be there for dinner. Robert had assumed this, because he knew there were a lot of men down from New Orleans at Klein's. Edna went inside to change, and Robert went over to where the Pontellier children were playing croquet. He played with them for the half an hour before dinner. The boys liked him very much.

Chapter 3

Mr. Pontellier came home around eleven o'clock that night, and he was in a vey good mood. Edna was asleep when he came home, but his incessant talking woke her. He told her the funny stories he had heard, and the latest gossip. While he was undressing, he took out a lot of money (banknotes and silver coins) from his pockets, which he put on top of the dresser. Edna, still half asleep, mumbled an answer every once in a while. He was irritated that Edna didn't show any interest in the things that were important to him, especially since she was the center of his world.

He had forgotten to bring back the treats he had promised his boys. He went in to check on them, and he was not happy about what he discovered. He repositioned them in their beds, and one of the boys kicked him and began talking in his sleep about a basket of crabs. Mr. Pontellier went back into his and his wife's bedroom, and informed her that Raoul had a fever and she would have to get up and take care of him. He then went and sat down by the window to smoke a cigar. Edna said that she was sure that Raoul had no fever, but Mr. Pontellier was convinced that he knew better. He monotonously began to criticize his wife's motherly skills; he also said that she always neglected her children's needs.

Edna, who was tired of listening to him, got out of bed and went to check on the boys. She came back a few moments later and sat on the bed with her head on her pillow. Mr. Pontellier tried to question his wife, but she refused to answer him. He came to bed when he was done with his cigar, and was asleep within a couple of minutes. Edna was now wide awake, and began to cry to herself. She put on her slippers and went downstairs. She went out onto the porch and sat in one of the wicker rocking chairs. There was no one else awake, and she could clearly hear the hooting of the owls and the sounds of sea; they became her lullaby. Edna began crying profusely, not caring enough to wipe away her tears; she didn't know why she cried like this, but it had happened often during her marriage. She felt oppressed by her marriage, but would not admit it. She would tell herself that she was crying just to have a good cry; instead of admitting to herself that she was crying because she was unhappy about how her life had turned out thus far.

Mr. Pontellier was to return to New Orleans the next morning, and would not be back until the following Saturday. He was very happy to be returning to work. He gave his wife half of his winnings from the night before, and Edna said that she was going to use it buy a wedding present for her sister Janet. Mr. Pontellier retorted that they would send her something better than that.

The boys were hanging on their father, asking him to bring them back this and that. Everyone seemed to like him, and they were around to say goodbye to him. A few days after he had left, Edna received a package from her husband. The box "was filled with friandises, with luscious and toothsome bits-the finest of fruits,patés, a rare bottle or two, delicious syrups, and bonbons in abundance" (9). Edna was used to receiving such gifts from her husband, and she shared them with everyone. They agreed "that Mr. Pontellier was the best husband in the world," and Edna was forced to agree with them (9).

Chapter 4

Mr. Pontellier could not pinpoint where his wife fell short as a mother, it was something he just felt. The boys never came to her when they fell down while they were playing; instead they got up and wiped their own tears out of their eyes, and started playing again. The boys acted like they were bigger than they were, and the other children would usually bow down to them. The quadroon was not much better; her only purpose seemed to be to brush and part the boy's hair, and to dress them.

Edna "was not a mother-woman" (10). "Mother-women" were women, who were considered to be doting mothers; they never let anything bad happen to their children. Their children were put on a pedestal, and their husbands were their saving grace. These women put their whole family before themselves, and they had no identity outside of their family. Adèle Ratignolle was the epitome of the "mother-woman."

Mrs. Ratignolle had a great fondness for Edna, and often went over to Edna's to sew in the afternoon. Adèle had brought Edna a sewing pattern to copy for a pair of night-drawers for her boys. These drawers were very special in design, because they would protect a child from any blast of cold whether during the winter months. Edna had no real interest in the pattern or in making clothes for her children to wear in the winter months, but she did not want anyone to know that so she took some newspaper and copied the pattern.

Robert was there with the women, and he and Edna were sitting on the porch steps like they had done the day before. Edna kept a box of bonbons next to her, offering them to Adèle every once in a while. Adèle had been married to her husband for about seven years, and they had had a child about every two years; she was now thinking about having a fourth child.

Mr. Pontellier was a Creole, but Edna had never felt comfortable among Creoles. Those who summered at the Lebrun's were all Creoles, and they considered themselves to be one big family. One thing that both shocked and impressed Edna about the Creoles was the fact that they were not prudish; the Creole women were undoubtedly chaste, but enjoyed a good racy story. Edna was embarrassed when she heard such talk, but she tried not to let it bother her. There was a book that was passed around among them that was very racy. When it was Edna's turn to read it she did so in private, unlike everyone else who read it out in the open. Edna came to the conclusion that these people would never stop surprising her, and gave into the idea that this was normal.

Chapter 5

Adèle, Edna, and Robert sat together on Edna's porch often throughout the summer. Robert and Edna shared a special kind of intimacy; they often exchanged looks and smiles. Robert was always with Edna, which was expected, because since he was about fifteen years old, he always attached himself to one woman for the summer.

Robert had hung around Adèle last summer, and all she did was order him around. He thought she was very cruel for using him the way she had. She would dismiss him every time her husband came home, and then welcome him back when her husband had gone again. Adèle commented that maybe she did that because she didn't want to make her husband jealous, which made them all laugh. Creole men did not get jealous; they had lost their ability to be passionate from the disuse of it.

Robert continued to tell stories about how Mrs. Ratignolle consumed his thoughts, both waking and asleep; he was completely enthralled with her. Every once in a while Adèle would chime in saying: "Blaguer-farceur-gros bête, va!" (14). Robert often took this tone when he spoke to Mrs. Ratignolle; however, he never spoke that way when he was just with Edna. She knew full well that Robert had expressed feelings of love to Adèle, but gratefully he had never done so to her.

Edna sat with her sketching supplies in her lap; sketching gave her an indiscernible kind of joy, nothing else ever made her feel the way she did when she sketched. She had always wanted to sketch Adèle and that day seemed like the perfect time to do so. Robert sat down on the step below Edna so that he could watch her sketch. While she was sketching, Robert laid his head on her arm. She gently brushed him off, but he repeated the act, and she had to push him away again. She could not allow him to get away with this subtle sign of affection. Her sketch didn't look anything like Adèle, and she was unhappy with it so she put a big smudge down the middle of it.

Edna's two sons came back to the house, and she had them carry her paints into the house. She hoped to have a pleasant conversation with them, but they were more interested in the bonbons that had arrived. They held their hands out and accepted what their mother gave them, and then they left again.

Adèle folded up her sewing gear into a nice neat package, and then complained that she felt faint. Edna went for the cologne bottle and fan. She sprayed the cologne on Adèle while Robert fanned. Adèle soon felt better, and Edna had a sneaky suspicion that Adèle faked being faint to get attention.

Edna watched Adèle walk back towards her cottage, and noticed that she walked with an air of majesty. Her three children ran up to her; she took the smallest one from the nurse and carried it. She was not supposed to carry her children per the doctor's orders, but she did not seem to care.

Robert asked Edna if she was going to go swimming, and she said no. He went and picked up her straw hat and put it on her head; Edna got up and walked with him down to the beach, the sun was going down and there was a cool breeze.

Chapter 6

Edna could not explain her impulse to, at first, say no to Robert, but then to give into his request. "A certain light was beginning to dawn dimly within her,-the light which, showing the way, forbids it" (17). She was beginning to understand her place as an individual in the world. These thoughts were not usually given to someone who was only twenty-eight years old, and especially not a woman.

"The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace" (17).

Chapter 7

Edna had always been lost in her own world. She knew the difference between the outer world that conforms to society's demands, and the inner world that questions everything. Adèle Ratignolle helped her to loosen the divide between these two worlds that summer. Edna had felt a special connection with her for some reason, maybe it was her beauty or maybe it was her whole existence.

One morning Edna and Adèle went down to the beach together; Edna had managed to talk her out of bringing the children, and somehow they managed to escape Robert. Adèle did insist on bringing her needlework, despite Edna's attempt to get her to leave it behind.

Edna wore loose muslin and her big straw hat, while Adèle, who cared more about her complexion, wore a veil on head and gloves that covered her wrists.

Along the shore there was many bath-houses, each family was assigned a specific bath-house. The Ratignolle and Pontellier had adjoining bath-houses. Edna and Adèle had no intention of swimming when they walked down to the bath-houses. When they arrived Edna went into her bath-house and retrieved a rug and a couple of pillows, which she placed up against the outer wall of the bath-house. They sat down with their backs up against the pillows. Adèle took off her veil and started to fan herself; Edna unbuttoned her dress around her throat, then she took the fan from her companion and began to fan them both. It was very hot, and there was a breeze that made them have to readjust their skirts often.

Edna stared out to sea, looking at all of the objects in her horizon. Adèle asked her what or who she was thinking about, and she replied that she was not thinking about anything. She quickly corrected herself, saying that the warm breeze reminded her of a day when she was a little girl in Kentucky; she was in a large green field, running away from the Presbyterian Church.

Adèle asker her if she was still running away from her prayers. Edna replied that when she was twelve, religion became her life. It has sort of become habit now. She leaned into Adèle and said that this summer felt to her like she was walking through that same meadow, aimlessly. Adèle held Edna's hand, stroking it softly. Edna was a little uncomfortable at first, but realized that Creoles were like this. She was not used to any outward signs of affection, not even among her own family.

When she was a young lady, she became enamored with a tragedian. She kept a picture of him on her desk. When she was all alone she liked to kiss the picture passionately. Edna met her husband, Léonce, while she was infatuated with the tragedian. He fell in love with her, and his devotion to her was flattering. She agreed to marry Léonce, the Catholic, despite her father and sister's strong objections. She knew that she and the tragedian would never be together, so she decided that it would be best to marry a man that worshipped her. Edna liked her husband well enough, but there was no passion in their relationship.

Just like her marriage, motherhood seemed like it was thrust upon her by Fate. Sometimes she wanted her children close to her, and other times she would forget about them. She liked it when they spent the summer with their grandmother Pontellier, because then she would not have to be responsible for them. It was a welcome relief.

After a while Robert came up to them; he had a bunch of children with him, including those of Edna and Adèle. The two women got up, shook off the sand, and Edna tossed the rug and pillows back into the bath-house. Adèle asked Robert to accompany her back to the house; she was feeling stiff from sitting on the ground.

Chapter 8

On their walk back, Adèle asked Robert for a favor. She asked him to leave Edna alone. Robert laughed at her, and Adèle said that she was serious. He composed himself, and in a more serious tone he asked her why. Adèle answered that Edna was not like them and she might take his actions seriously. He told her that he hoped Edna took him seriously. Adèle chastised him for his remark; he felt like he was a little kid.

When the two reached the Ratignolle cottage, Robert apologized for his childish rudeness. He also said that she should have warned him not take himself seriously rather than warning that Edna might take him seriously. He then said goodbye, but stopped and said that she looked tired. He asked her if she wanted him to get her a cup of bouillon or toddy; she said that she'd like a cup of bouillon. He went to the kitchen and got it for her; he brought it back to her, and then went back to the main house.

Robert went up to his mother's room; she was sitting at her sewing machine, and there was a young black girl on the floor working the treadle of the sewing machine. Robert sat at the window and began to read, every once in a while Robert and his mother would engage in small talk.

Robert asked his mother where Victor was going in the rockaway. Madame Lebrun seemed surprised, and bid her son to call for Victor. Robert whistled at him very loudly, but Victor did not look up. Madame Lebrun went to the window and called to him herself, but he just drove away. She was very angry when she went back to her sewing machine.

Victor was Robert's younger brother he was strong-willed, and had a bad temper, which got him into a lot of trouble. Madame Lebrun blamed the absence of the boy's father as the reason why Victor had turned out like he had.

Robert asked his mother what news she had heard from Montel. Montel had been trying to take the place of Madame Lebrun's husband for the last twenty years. His mother dug out the letter from her work-basket. She told him that Montel had asked her to tell him that he was going to be in Vera Cruz at the beginning of the next month, and he asked if Robert was still planning to join him there. Robert became impatient and asked his mother why she hadn't told him sooner. Madame Lebrun changed the subject by asking if Mrs. Pontellier had come back to her cottage yet, remarking that Edna was always late to luncheon.

Chapter 9

One Saturday, a few weeks after Adèle and Robert's disagreement, there was an unusual amount of husbands at Grande Isle. For the occasion, Madame Lebrun had the lights in the dining hall turned up as high as they could go without being hazardous. The dining tables were pushed together on one side of the hall leaving a large open space where everyone could dance, play music, or hear recitations. Some of the children had been permitted to stay up after their bedtimes, and they gathered around the Pontellier boys. Mr. Pontellier had brought his boys some comic books, which they allowed the other to look at. The whole evening was very spontaneous.

The Farval girls were asked to play the piano, so they played a piece from "Zampa" and "The Poet and the Peasant." Madame Lebrun's parrot interrupted the girls' duet by shrieking; he was the only who admitted that he was not listening to the girls. Their grandfather got very upset, and ordered that the parrot be moved. Victor refused to have the bird moved, and that was the end of that. The parrot didn't make any other noise that night; so there were no more flare ups between Victor and the girls' grandfather.

Madame Ratignolle, who was the only one there that was not allowed to dance, played the piano for the others to dance to. She was an excellent pianist. Everyone else danced except the Farval twins, who did not want to be separated from one another. After the ice-cream was served the children were sent to bed under mild protest.

Mrs. Pontellier had danced two dances with her husband, one with Robert, and one with Monsieur Ratignolle before she decided to take a break. She went and sat at a window in the gallery. Robert came over to her and asked her if she wanted to hear Mademoiselle Reisz play the piano. Edna said yes, but she felt that it was useless to ask her. Robert replied that he would go and tell her that Mrs. Pontellier wanted her to play; she would come, because she liked Edna.

Mademoiselle Reize came without much effort on Robert's part. She bowed awkwardly as she came into the hall. She told Robert to ask Edna what she wanted to hear. Everyone was very happy when they had seen Mademoiselle Reisz enter the room. She sat at the piano without touching the keys while she awaited Edna's reply. Edna was too bashful to pick a tune so she asked Robert to tell her to choose anything she wanted to play.

When Mademoiselle Reisz began to play and Edna waited for the familiar images of solitude, hope, and despair to flash through her mind, but they did not. Normally, when she listened to people play these images would wash over her being, but this time she was overcome by an intense passion that brought tears to her eyes. After Mademoiselle Reisz had finished her song she got up to leave; on her way out of the hall she stopped and patted Edna's shoulder. She asked Edna how she like it, but Edna could not answer so she pressed her hand on the pianists. Mademoiselle Reisz told Edna that she was the only one worthy to hear her play.

Chapter 10

She swam far away from the rest of the group. When she looked back towards the shore the distance seemed insurmountable. The thought of death suddenly occurred to her. She didn't tell anyone about these thoughts; she only mentioned to her husband that she thought she might die out there. He responded by saying that she was not that far out. Edna swam ashore and went to the bath-house, and changed her clothes. As she was walking back to the cottage, everyone was shouting to her, telling her that she should come back, but she just waved them off and continued on.

Madame Lebrun said to Mr. Pontellier that she thought Edna was impulsive at times, and he said that he knew she was.

Robert ran after Edna, and caught up with her. She asked him if he thought she was afraid. He said that he knew she wasn't afraid. She then asked him why he ran after her. He said that he hadn't even thought about it, he just did. Edna told him that she was very tired, Robert responded by saying that he knew she was. She snapped back at him saying that he didn't know anything. She continued speaking, not to Robert but rather just to hear herself speak. She said that she had felt many emotions that night, most of which she didn't understand. She wondered if she would ever feel like that again. There must have been some mystical forces out.

You're right, said Robert. On August twenty-eighth every year at midnight, and if the moon is shining the ghost that has haunted this place for years will rise up. He searches for someone who is worthy enough to hold him, and until now he has never been able to find that person. Tonight he found you, and perhaps he will never fully leave you.

Edna was annoyed, and told him not to tell her stories like she was child. Her tone made him think that she was reproaching him, which upset him because he understood what was going on within her and he wanted to make her feel better. Robert offered her his arm, and she accepted it.

Robert assisted Edna into the hammock that was in front of her cottage. He asked her if she was going to wait for her husband out here, and she said that she was. She bid him good night, but not wanting to leave, Robert stalled by asking her questions. He asked her if she wanted him to stay with her until her husband came back, and she replied that he could if he wanted to. She asked him to bring her the shawl she had left on the window-sill of the cottage, which he did. He gave her the shawl and she just held it in her hands; Robert sat down and smoked a cigarette. They sat there together silently. When Robert heard the others coming back, he said good-bye to Edna, and left. She didn't say anything to him, but she watched him walk away in the moonlight.

It was now time for the party to disband, but as everyone was getting ready to leave someone suggested a moonlight bath.


Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1995.

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