March 13, 2016

Kate Chopin's The Awakening Chapter 11-20 (Summary)

Chapter 11

Out of the darkness, Mr. Pontellier asked his wife what she was doing outside at one o'clock in the morning. She didn't answer, and he drew close to her face to see if she was awake. He told her to come inside so that she didn't catch a cold or get eaten by the mosquitoes. She said that she wasn't cold and there were no mosquitoes. He went inside and moved around with deliberate impatience; any other time she would have done what he wanted her to do out of habit, but tonight was different.

He tried again to entreat her to come inside by changing the tone of his voice to one more pleasing, but she said that she was going to stay out there. He felt very annoyed when he heard her answer. Trying to regain his authority, he told her that he could not allow her to stay outside all night. By this time Edna was stubbornly determined to stay outside, and she told her husband to go to bed.

Mr. Pontellier, dressed in his night clothes, drank a glass of wine from his private stash, and then went down to his wife and offered her a glass. She refused. He sat in the rocking chair on the porch with his feet on the porch rail, and smoked a couple of cigars. He went back into the house and drank another glass of wine, and came out an offered one to his wife, which she refused again. He returned to his spot on the porch and smoked a couple of more cigars.

Edna was exhausted, and soon felt like she was going to fall asleep. She went into the house, pausing at the porch she asked her husband if he was going to come in. He said that he would be in after he was done smoking his cigar.

Chapter 12

Edna didn't sleep well that night. She found herself fully awake early in the morning; most people were still asleep. Edna walked outside looking at those who did happen to be awake; the people who were going to Chenière for mass, young lovers, the lady in black, and grandpa Farival were all up and about.

Edna saw Mrs. Lebrun's "little negro girl" and asked her to go and fetch Robert. She planned to go to Chenière for mass. Edna had never sent for him before, and he came quickly. They went to the kitchen window, and the cook handed them coffee and rolls. Robert told her that she lacked forethought. She replied by saying that at least she woke him up to go with her; quoting her husband, she said: "do I have to think of everything?" (46).

He says this when he is in a bad mood, but it don't let it bother me, because I know that I'm the reason he is always in a bad mood.

They walked behind the lovers, the lady in black, grandpa Farival, and a Spanish girl, who wore "a red kerchief on her head and a basket on her arm" (46). She knew Robert and they spoke together in Spanish while they were on the boat. Edna studied the girl from head to toe. The girl asked Robert why she was looking at her like that, and he said that Edna probably thought that she was pretty. She then asked if he and Edna were together. He told her that Edna was married and had children. She told him about a married woman who ran off with another man, leaving her husband broke with three of the four children, and without his boat. Robert told her to be quiet. The girl asked if Edna could understand Spanish; Robert again told her to be quiet.

"Sailing across the bay to the Chenière Caminada, Edna felt as if she were being borne away from some anchorage which had held her fast, whose chains had been loosening-had snapped the night before when the mystic spirit was abroad, leaving her free to drift whitersoever she chose to set her sails" (47). Robert turned his attention away from the Spanish girl and onto Enda; he talked to her continuously. Robert suggested that they go to Grande Terre the following day, and Edna thought to herself that she would love to be all alone there with Robert. They went on discussing adventures they could have together until they reached land. When they reached the shore all but Beaudelet and Mariequita went up to the church of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Chapter 13

Edna was overcome by dizziness during the service, and instead of trying to compose herself, she exited the church; Robert followed closely behind her. They went outside, they were standing in the shade when Edna told him that she had felt giddy, and there was no way she could have sat through the service. Robert told her that it was a bad idea to go to church, in the first place. Anxiously looking down at her, Robert led her to Madame Antoine's house; so that she could rest.

That island was very still and quiet; the only thing one heard was the roar of the sea. They had to walk to the other side of the village to get to Madame Antoine's home. She did not speak English, but Robert managed to make her to understand that Edna needed a place to rest; Madame Antoine opened her home to them with the greatest of hospitality. The house was spotless. Edna was taken to a room with a big white bed that looked very inviting. Robert went outside onto the porch to smoke. Edna took off most of her clothes, washed her face, neck, and arms, and then lay on the bed. "How luxurious it felt thus in a strange, quaint bed, with its sweet country odor of laurel lingering about the sheets and mattress!" (50). [This is an example of free-indirect style; the narrative shifts from third person to first person]. She stretched out her limbs, perhaps, noticing them for the first time. She fell asleep with her hands back behind her head.

She awoke refreshed. She looked outside and saw that it was late in the afternoon. Robert was reclining against an overturned boat reading a book. Edna felt the grumblings of hunger; so she went into the kitchen and there was a loaf of bread and wine on the table. Edna took a bite of the bread and drank some of the wine. She went outside to see what Robert was up to. She stood under an orange tree, picked an orange, and threw it at him. They went into the house together. Robert told her that the others had thought it best not to disturb her; so they went home a while ago. They were to take Tonie's boat back when she was ready to leave. She asked Robert if they were leaving soon; he said they could wait a couple of hours for the sun to lower a bit. Edna said that it would be dark if they waited that long. They waited until the sun had set before they went back to Grande Isle.

Chapter 14

Madame Ratignolle had watched the children while Edna and Robert were at Chenière. Raoul (the eldest of the two boys) had gone to sleep a couple of hours prior to Edna's arrival, but Etienne had thrown a tantrum and refused to go to sleep. Edna took Etienne from Adèle and held him in her arms trying to calm him. Léonce had gone to Klein's hotel to talk to a cotton broker. Adèle left Edna with the boys, saying that she had to go home because her husband hated being alone.

Etienne fell asleep in his mother's arms. She took him into his bedroom; Robert lifted the mosquito net that surrounded the bed, and Edna put Etienne in bed. Robert left; Edna watched him walk towards the gulf by himself.

Edna waited for her husband outside. She drifted off into her own thoughts. She wondered how this summer was different than all the other summers of her life. She began to see things in a way that she hadn't before. She was curious why Robert had left her; she missed him when he wasn't around. She began singing the song Robert had sung to her as they crossed the bay earlier that night.

Chapter 15

Edna walked into the dining room; she was late as usual. She sat down and began to eat her soup when several people told her that Robert was going to Mexico. She was surprised, because she had spent all morning with him, and he hadn't said anything about going to Mexico. She looked across the table at him with an air of bewilderment; he returned her gaze appearing a little uneasy. She asked those around her when he was leaving, and they replied that he was going that night. She was again shocked; how could someone decide to go to Mexico on the spur of the moment? Robert was irritated; he told everyone that he had been saying for years that he was going to Mexico.

Madame Lebrun broke up the chatter, and bid them to let Robert explain why he was leaving so suddenly. Robert addressed everyone, but looked specifically at Edna, and said that he had to meet the men, whom he intended to go with to Vera Cruz, on a specific day. The only way could meet them on that appointed day was if he left immediately.

Edna managed to eat the majority of her soup, despite the distraction of Robert's impending departure. Madame Ratignolle told Robert to be careful, because Mexicans "were a treacherous people, unscrupulous and revengeful" (58). She had only ever met one Mexican; he seemed like a nice man, but he was later charged with stabbing his wife.

Edna couldn't believe her ears; she could only think of Robert. She asked him when he was leaving; he told her that he was going to be leaving at ten o'clock that night. He turned for a second to answer a question posed to him by his mother, and Edna took that opportunity to leave the table.

Edna went back to her cottage, and began to busy herself with straightening up the toilet-stand. She picked up clothes that had been strewn around the room, and put them away. Edna changed into a dress that was more comfortable. She went into the boy's room, dismissed the quadroon, and told the boys a story before bed. The story excited the boys; instead of soothing them, and they stayed up debating the end of the story after she had finished.

Madam Lebrun sent her "little black girl" to invite Edna to the main house to sit with them until Robert left. She told the girl to tell Madam Lebrun that she had already undressed and that she didn't feel all that well, but that she might come over later.

Madame Ratignolle came over to see what was wrong. Edna said that the commotion at dinner must have upset her. She didn't like to be surprised like that. She didn't understand how someone could just pick up and leave so suddenly. Adèle said that she agreed, and it was very inconsiderate of him, especially towards Edna. She then tried to persuade Edna to come down to the main house, because it would be rude not to. Edna refused, but told her that she should go. Adèle kissed her goodbye and went to the main house.

Later that night, Robert came by with his bag in his hand. He asked her if she was feeling alright; she replied that she felt okay. She asked him when he was leaving; he said that he had to leave in twenty minutes. She asked him how long he would be gone. He said that he may be gone forever; it depended on how things worked out. She told him that she didn't understand why he hadn't said anything to her that morning. He asked her not to be angry with him; he didn't want to leave with her upset with him. She said that she didn't want to be upset. She didn't want to be without him; she was even looking forward to seeing him in the city that winter. He sputtered that he had hoped to see her in the city also, and that was perhaps the; he stopped short and held out his hand to her to say goodbye. He walked away. Edna fought to hold back the tears. She realized at that moment how infatuated she had been with him; it reminded her of her adolescence. "The past was nothing to her; offered no lesson which she was willing to heed. The future was a mystery which she never attempted to penetrate. The present alone was significant; was hers, to torture her as it was doing then with the biting conviction that she had lost that which she had held, that she had been denied that which she impassioned, newly awakened being demanded" (62).

Chapter 16

Edna was walking towards the beach, when Mademoiselle Reisz snuck up behind her and asked if she really missed Robert that much. Edna had been swimming a lot since the night she had learned how. Their stay at Grande Isle was going to be ending soon, and she wanted to spend as much time in the water as possible. Mademoiselle Reisz seemed to know exactly what Edna was feeling. Robert's leaving had left Edna's life a bit dull. It seemed that when he left he took all the joy and color with him. She had become obsessed with Robert; she would induce conversations about him. She would go up to Madame Lebrun's sewing room and look at the family photo albums. There weren't any recent pictures of Robert; his mother said it was because he had to start paying for them himself.

Madame Lebrun told Edna that Robert had written her a letter before he left New Orleans; Edna asked to see it. Edna studied the envelope very carefully before finally opening it. The letter was very short; the only mention of Edna was a line that instructed his mother on where to find the book that he had been reading to Mrs. Pontellier. Edna was very jealous; why hadn't he written to her?

When Mr. Pontellier came home the Saturday following Robert's departure, Edna grilled him about the when, where, and whys of his visit with Robert in the city. Mr. Pontellier asked her how she managed to get through the day without Robert; Edna said that her days were very dull now that he was gone.

Edna asked Mademoiselle Reisz if she was going to go swimming. Mademoiselle Reisz sarcastically asked why she would want to go swimming now when she hadn't all season. Edna was a bit embarrassed, because she had forgotten that Mademoiselle Reisz had a great aversion to the water. To show that she was not angry Mademoiselle Reisz offered Edna chocolates that she kept with her at all times; they were the only thing that sustained her since Madame Lebrun's meals were inedible.

Edna tried to change the subject by saying that Madame Lebrun must really be lonely now that her favorite son had left. Mademoiselle Reisz laughed; Madame Lebrun lived for Victor. She spoiled him, and made him into the man he is today. Robert is the only one of them that was worth anything. He sometimes comes to see me in the city, and I play for him. She continued by saying that she was surprised Robert hadn't killed him yet. Edna said that she thought they got along quite well. Mademoiselle Reisz told her that about a year or two ago, Robert was talking to some Spanish girl that Victor thought that he had a claim on. Victor apparently insulted Robert and Robert beat him up right there. Edna asked if the Spanish girl was Mariequita; Mademoiselle Reisz affirmed that it had been her.

Mademoiselle Reisz was starting to depress her; so Edna decided to go for a swim, hoping that Mademoiselle Reisz would not wait for her. Mademoiselle Reisz did wait for her, but on the walk back she was very pleasant. She wrote down her address for Edna, and told her to come and visit her. Mademoiselle Reisz was leaving on Monday, and the Pontelliers were leaving the following week.

Chapter 17

The Pontellier's house in New Orleans was big; it was painted white and it had green shutters. The house and the garden were up kept perfectly. Mr. Pontellier had bought for his wife only the best things for the house. He carefully picked out paintings to hang on the walls. Mrs. Pontellier was the envy of all wives; her husband was very generous. He put great value on his possessions.
Tuesday was Edna's reception day; she would be in the drawing-room all day receiving guests. She had stuck to this schedule the entire time they had been married. Mr. Pontellier left between nine and ten o'clock every morning and didn't return until six in the evening.

A few weeks after they had come home from Grande Isle, Mr. and Mrs. Pontellier sat down to dinner. Mr. Pontellier noticed that Edna was not wearing her usual reception dress. He asked her if she was tired from having a lot of callers that day. Edna told him that there had been a lot, but she wasn't home to see them; they left their cards. Mr. Pontellier was angry; he told her that she couldn't just go out without leaving an appropriate excuse.
Edna tried to change the subject by commenting on the poorly made soup, but Mr. Pontellier quickly brought the conversation back to that day's visitors. He asked her if Mrs. Belthrop had stopped by, because her husband was very important to him business. Edna said that she didn't remember, and had one of the servants bring her the tray with everyone's cards. When the servant brought the tray, Edna instructed him to give it to Mr. Pontellier. He started looking through the cards, commenting on the visitors that she had missed seeing that day. Edna was getting annoyed.

The fish was burned and Mr. Pontellier would not eat it. For some reason he did not like the roast either and the vegetables offended in some unknown way also. He complained that Edna didn't manage her staff well and that's why the dinner was so unpleasant.

Mr. Pontellier got up to leave and Edna asked him where he was going. He replied very curtly that he was going to have dinner down at the club, and he left. These sorts of scenes happened often, and they use to really upset her. She would not be able to finish her dinner, because she was so upset. She would go into the kitchen and lecture the cook, and then set about writing up a menu for the week. That night was different; she remained at the table and made herself finish her meal. Once she had finished she went into her room, and left word that she was not to be disturbed. She was pacing her room with a handkerchief in her hands, which ended up in shreds. She took off her wedding ring and threw it on the floor. She stomped on it, but she didn't make a scratch on it. She needed to break something, so she took a vase and threw it at the hearth. The maid heard the noise and came in; she insisted on cleaning up the mess despite Edna's objections. She found Enda's ring and handed it back to her; Edna put it back on her finger.

Chapter 18

The next day, Lèonce had lectured the cook, and he felt pretty good about himself. He asked Edna to meet him in town; so that they could go and pick out some new things for the library. Edna told her husband that she wished that he wouldn't buy any new things for the library; they didn't need anything new. Edna told him that he never thought of saving his money. Lèonce shot back that the rich didn't get rich by saving. Mr. Pontellier left after that, and Edna went and stood on the veranda. She felt completely disconnected from everything in the world around her.

She took out some of her old drawings and studied them. She could see all the flaws in the sketches. She picked out a few of them that she deemed better than the rest to take with her to Madame Ratignolle's. She still thought about Robert all the time; no matter how much she tried to forget about him, she couldn't. The infatuation and obsession hadn't waned a bit since leaving Grande Isle.

The Ratignolle's didn't live that far from the Pontellier's. Monsieur Ratignolle owned a drug store that was started by his father. Edna and Adèle remained close after they returned to the city. When Edna arrived Adèle led her into the salon. Edna took out her sketches and handed them to her companion. She asked her what she thought, even though her opinion didn't really matter much; Edna just wanted to be told that she had some talent. She told Adèle that she was thinking about starting to sketch again. Adèle told her that she was very talented; Edna tried to be modest by saying that she wasn't all that good, but Adèle wouldn't hear of it. She picked out a couple of the sketches to keep, and then handed the rest of them back to Edna.

Mr. Ratignolle came up for lunch and Adèle showed him the sketches. He thought that Edna looked a little sick and he prescribed her a tonic. Mr. and Mrs. Ratignolle were one of those rare couples that understood each other perfectly. They all talked together for a while on various subjects.

Edna left the Ratignolles more depressed than when she had come. The domestic harmony that she saw at the Ratignolles didn't make her regret her life; she didn't want that kind of life. She felt sorry for Madame Ratignolle, because she had no idea what she was missing.

Chapter 19

Looking back on her actions, Edna felt very foolish and childish to stomp on her wedding ring and throw the vase at the hearth. Edna began to do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. She completely stopped having her Tuesday reception day, and she didn't call on those who came to see her. Mr. Pontellier was shocked by his wife's new behavior. He would speak to her in an angry tone, and she would stand up for herself; she was no longer his obedient wife. He would attack the way she managed the house, and their family. She neglected all of her wifely and motherly duties for painting. She would tell Léonce that if she wanted to paint then she was going to paint. He would respond by saying that Mrs. Ratignolle studies music, but she didn't let that get in the way of her duties as a mother and wife.

Mr. Pontellier began to think that his wife was having mental issues. "He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world" (79).

Edna walked up to the atelier, which was a room at the top of the house that had a lot light pouring into it during the day. She would go into this room to paint and draw. She spent a lot of her energy on her new pastime. Everyone in the house took turns being her model. Sometimes when she worked she would sing the song that Robert had sung to her that night they sailed across the bay together. That song brought back a lot of memories from that night, and the entire summer that she spent with Robert.

Edna had good and bad days. On the days when she felt happy without any reason, she would work on her paintings or she would go out and explore the city. She would wander around looking for strange or forgotten places. She loved to day dream on these walks. On other days, bad days, she didn't care whether she was alive or dead. There seemed to be no real purpose to life; the world didn't make sense to her. On these days she could not work.

Chapter 20

One mid-November day when Edna was not in a good mood, she decided that she wanted to go see Mademoiselle Reisz. She hadn't forgotten about the last time she saw her, but she wanted to hear her play the piano.

Unfortunately, she could not find the card that Mademoiselle Reisz had written her address on. She looked her up in the directory, but when she arrived at the listed address another family lived there and they had never heard of her.

Edna decided to go to the grocery store, thinking that surely someone there would know where she had moved to. The grocer knew Mademoiselle Reisz better than he wanted to know her; he thought she was not a very nice woman, and he was glad that she had moved. He was happy to inform Edna that he had no idea where she had moved to, and he didn't want to know.

All of the obstacles she encountered looking for Mademoiselle Reisz only made her want to find her that much more. It suddenly occurred to her that the one person that would definitely know where she lived would be Madame Lebrun; so she decided to go there.

The Lebrun house looked like a prison with all of the metal bars on the windows and doors. They were from the old regime; no one had ever thought of removing them. Edna went to the garden gate and rung the bell. To Edna's surprise Victor opened the door. Victor was nineteen years old, and lived at Grande Isle all year long. It was his job to look after the place, and prepare for the summer guests. Victor was very happy and shocked to see Edna, and he didn't try to hide it from her. He invited Edna to come into the house, but she refused saying that she would rather sit outside. Victor sat down in the chair next to hers and began to tell her what he did the previous night. He was getting to the good part of the story when Madame Lebrun came outside, and he had to stop telling his story.

Madame Lebrun was still wearing the customary white dress of the summer. Victor got up from his chair and lay down on a lounge chair behind his mother; he had a perfect view of Edna's face. Madame Lebrun complained that she was so lonely since she came home from Grande Isle. She said that she had received two short letters from Robert relating his progress. There was nothing muchelse to report. He sent his mother some money, and wished everyone well.

Edna suddenly remembered why she had come, in the first place, and asked Madame Lebrun for Mademoiselle Reisz's address. Madame Lebrun gave her the address, but asked Edna to stay and visit with her and put off seeing Mademoiselle Reisz another day. Edna would not hear of it, and Victor walked her to the gate. When Victor came back up onto the porch Madame Lebrun said that Edna looked very good, and Victor added that she looked ravishing. He also said that she seemed like a completely different woman.


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

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