March 13, 2016

Kate Chopin's The Awakening Chapter 21-30 (Summary)

The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate ChopinChapter 21

Mademoiselle Reisz always seemed to live in apartments that were on the top floor; whether or not it was because she wanted to avoid beggars and callers is not known. Her apartment had many windows that always seemed to be dirty, but that didn't matter since they were always open. One of the drawbacks was that smoke and soot would invade the apartment. There was a brilliant piano taking up a lot of the tiny space of the apartment.

When Mademoiselle Reisz saw Edna, she laughed, and said 'so you finally remembered me'. Edna asked Mademoiselle Reisz if she had wanted her to come. She replied that she hadn't thought about it much. She offered Edna some coffee. She grabbed Edna's hand and held it tightly, and said that she thought that Edna didn't like her all that much. Edna said she didn't know if she liked her or not, which seemed to please Mademoiselle Reisz.

She went into the kitchen to fetch the coffee; she mentioned that she had received a letter from Robert. Edna was surprised. Mademoiselle Reisz said that he may have written the letters to her, but they should have been sent to Edna, because they were all about her. Edna asked to see the letter, and Mademoiselle Reisz said no. Mademoiselle Reisz began to convey the content of the letters from memory. In one, Robert asked her to play Chopin's Impromptu, because it was his favorite. Edna ordered her to play the Impromptu. Mademoiselle Reisz tried to change the subject by asking Edna what she had been up to lately. Edna told her that she had been painting. Mademoiselle Reisz told her that to be a successful artist one must have a courageous soul.

Edna once again ordered that Mademoiselle Reisz let her read the letter, and to play the Impromptu; she wanted to show Mademoiselle Reisz that she did have a courageous soul that she was daring and defiant. Mademoiselle Reisz fetched the letter from the side table that Edna had placed her coffee on, and gave it to her to read. She then went over to the piano and began to play. Edna read the letter, and began to sob. She arose after a while, and asked Mademoiselle Reisz if she could come again. Mademoiselle Reisz told her that she could come whenever she wanted.

Chapter 22

One day, Mr. Pontellier decided to stop in and see the family physician, Dr. Mandelet. He was semi-retired and known for his wisdom rather than his expertise in medicine. He only practiced medicine on a few select families; the Pontelliers were one of these families. His contemporaries took over the rest of the practice.

Mr. Pontellier sat down and told the doctor that he wished to talk about Edna. The doctor was surprised, because he had seen her the previous week, and she seemed to be very well. Mr. Pontellier said that Edna hadn't been herself lately; she was acting weird. He told the doctor that she had completely abandoned her household duties. She had adopted a new attitude towards him as well; he was forced to lose his temper a lot, which he normally did not do. The doctor asked him what he had done to her. Mr. Pontellier was insulted by this question. The doctor then asked if she had been hanging out with any of the "pseudo-intellectual women" that had sprung up lately. Mr. Pontellier said that she hadn't been hanging out with anyone; she had even given up her Tuesday reception day. He said that he was worried about her. The doctor then asked if anything had been wrong with her ancestors, and Mr. Pontellier said that they were all of good Southern stock.

Mr. Pontellier mentioned that her youngest sister was getting married in a couple of weeks, and the doctor told him to send her to the wedding. It would help her to be around her family for a while. Mr. Pontellier said that he tried to convince her to go, but she refused. The doctor then told him to just leave her alone that this was just a passing phase that every woman goes through. "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" (92). The doctor said that he would be happy to stop by the Pontelliers and visit with Mrs. Pontellier; they settled on Thursday as the day the doctor would drop by.

Mr. Pontellier told the doctor that he was going to have to go to New York for business for a couple of months. He wanted to know whether he should take Edna with him. The doctor told him that if she wanted to go then she should go, but if she wanted to stay then he should let her stay.

Mr. Pontellier left the good doctor. The doctor wondered if there was another man in Edna's life, but he knew better than to ask Mr. Pontellier such a question. He sat there for a while thinking over the case.

Chapter 23

For the last few days Edna's father had been in town, and staying with Edna and her husband. Edna and her father weren't very close, but they shared similar tastes. He had come to New Orleans to buy a gift for his daughter's wedding, and something for him to wear to the wedding. These two tasks were automatically deferred to Mr. Pontellier, whose expertise on such matters was greatly revered. Edna's father had achieved the rank of Colonel, in the Confederate army.

Upon his arrival Edna brought him up to her atelier to sketch him; the Colonel believed that he had passed on to his daughters the ability to master any task, which is why he sat for her without hesitation. He sat for her very stoically.

Edna had wanted to introduce him to Mademoiselle Reisz, but she declined Edna's invitation; instead they went to the Ratignolles for a soirée musicale. They made the Colonel the guest of honor, and fussed over him. Madame Ratignolle flirted with the Colonel in a very naïve way that was enchanting to watch. Edna didn't possess the ability to be coquetting. Mr. Pontellier did not join them, because he found soirée musicales to be too bourgeois; so he went to the club instead.

Madame Ratignolle made it very clear to Edna that she didn't like the club. She told Edna that her and her husband would be a lot closer if he spent more time at home. Edna disagreed arguing that they would have nothing to talk about.

Something about her father interested Edna, and she took on all the responsibility of having him as their guest. It amused her to tend to his needs. Mr. Pontellier noticed this dynamic, and was surprised to discover a filial bond that he had never seen before. The Colonel liked to drink toddies all day long; so he was generally at ease with everything. One of his favorite pass times was inventing new drinks, and he sent Edna to get the various ingredients needed for them.

On Thursday, Dr. Mandelet came over for dinner. He did not notice any of the symptoms that Mr. Pontellier had told him about. He found her excited and happy. Edna and her father had gone to the race track that day so the topic at dinner was horse racing. They had met Mrs. Mortimer Merriman, Mrs. James Highcamp, and Alcée Arobin at the track. Mr. Pontellier disapproved of the race track, which he made known. The Colonel was irritated by Mr. Pontellier's dislike for the track, and an argument ensued.

The champagne made everyone amiable again, and they started to share stories. Mr. Pontellier shared memories from his childhood in Iberville. The Colonel talked about his glory days. The Doctor told a story about a woman, who had started acting strange, but after a few days she returned to normal. Edna's story was about a woman who sailed off with her lover, and never returned.

The Doctor left the Pontelliers, he did not want to know the secrets of others. As he was walking home, he said to himself that he hoped that it was not Alcée Arobin.

Chapter 24

Edna and her father got into a huge argument about Edna's unwillingness to attend her sister's wedding. He tried to convince her to go by saying that he didn't think her sisters would ever talk to her again if she didn't go, but that didn't work. Edna was happy when her father left. Mr. Pontellier decided that on his way to New York he would stop off at Janet's wedding and try to make up for Edna's absence with the use of love and money. The Colonel told Mr. Pontellier that he was too easy on Edna; the only way to run a household was with authority and coercion. Mr. Pontellier thought that the Colonel had forgotten that he had ruled his own wife to an early grave.

As the day of Mr. Pontellier's departure neared, Edna became the doting wife that Mr. Pontellier had always wanted. She showered him with love, concern, and affection much like Madame Ratignolle would have done. When he left she cried. She told him that loneliness would soon overtake her and she would join him in New York.

She felt at peace after her husband's departure. The children were taken away by old Madame Pontellier so that they could experience life in the country. When it was just she and the servants Edna breathed a big sigh of relief. She, finally, felt free. She explored the house and the garden like it was new to her. She sat in every chair, experiencing it for the first time.

She went out into the garden, and began to weed, trim, and pick the flowers. The boys little dog kept getting in the middle of what she was doing, but she didn't seem to mind. She played with him and laughed. The little dog was surprised at getting attention from Edna.

Edna ate dinner by herself that night wearing a peignoir. She found the meal very satisfying. She thought about Léonce and the boys lovingly, and then gave a few scraps of food to the dog. Edna went into the library after dinner and started reading Emerson; she had neglected her reading for too long, and she decided to begin to enrich her mind again. She took a bath and went to bed. She melted into bed with a comfort she had never felt before.

Chapter 25

She began to feel satisfied by her work. The weather greatly affected Edna's work; when it was dark and gloomy, she could not work. When the weather was bad, Edna would call on her friends from Grande Isle. Some days she felt like life was just passing her by, and that made her feel miserable; so she would stay home and sulk.

Edna went back to the races despite her husband's negative attitude towards horse racing. She went with Mrs. Highcamp and Alcée Arobin. Alcée was a fashionable young man, whom could often be found at the horse racing track, the opera, and the popular clubs about town. The last time they had all met at the race track, Alcée Arobin had been captivated by Edna. He had met her before that, but he had thought that she was rather boring. Now, Edna seemed to be full of life. He asked Mrs. Highcamp to invite Edna to go to the Jockey Club with them.

Edna knew the race horse better than anyone. The smell of the stables brought her back to her childhood; she was raised around race horses. She sat in between Mrs. Highcamp and Arobin; she began to speak like her father did when he spoke about horse racing. She played for large amounts of money and she won. People were drawn to her energy, including Arobin. Many would listen closely to her, hoping to get that ever desired tip on which horse was going to win. Edna breathed in the horse track air like it was drug, and she felt like she was on top of the world.

Edna and Arobin dined with the Highcamps that night. The evening was very unexciting, and boring. When it was time for Edna to go home Arobin offered to accompany her. When they reached Edna's house Arobin asked permission to come inside to light his cigarette; he was out of matches. He got Edna to agree to go to the races again, and then he left.

The Highcamp dinner had not been very satisfying, so Edna was still hungry. She went into the kitchen to look for something to eat. She ate some crackers with Gruyère, and she drank a bottle of beer. She regretted that she had not made Arobin stay for a while to talk about the horses. She felt restless, and she wanted something, anything to happen. She counted the money that she had won that day, and then went to bed. She tossed and turned for a long time.

A few days later, Arobin came again to pick up Edna to go to the race track. He told Edna that they would go and pick up Mrs. Highcamp on the way, but since she had not been advised of this plan, she was not there. At the race track, the familiar feeling of euphoria returned to Edna. It was not hard to be friendly with Arobin, his demeanor made it very easy to talk to him.

Arobin ate dinner at Edna's house after the races. They had a good time together talking and laughing. He told her that his life would have been very different if he had met her years before.

Arobin recounted a story from his youth, and he showed the scar to Edna. She took his hand to look at the scar. She pulled away suddenly and cringed. She told him that she shouldn't have looked at it. They stood close together, and the way that he looked at her seemed to awaken a feeling of sensuousness inside of her that she had not felt before. He took her hand and held it while he said goodnight. He asked her if she would go to the races again, and she said no. He then asked when he could come by to look at her work. She told him that he couldn't come by to look at it. He kept insisting on coming by; so she told him that she didn't like him. Her words lacked sincerity, and Arobin knew it. He asked her what he had done wrong, and kissed her hand. She told him that she was sorry that she had misled him in some way, but she wanted him to leave. He picked up his hat, and said to her that her manner had not misled him, but he would leave because she had commanded him to do so.

Edna was relieved when he left, but a new thought occurred to her. "What would he think?" (106). She wasn't referring to her husband; she was worried what Robert would think.

Chapter 26

Arobin wrote her a letter of apology. Edna thought that if she ignored it or answered it in a serious tone then she would be telling him that what happened between them was more important than it was. She decided to reply in a light and fun tone; she told him that he could come by anytime to look at her work. When Arobin received the letter, he came to her immediately. From that day on, they were scarcely apart. They became very friendly with each other.

One misty day, Edna went to visit Mademoiselle Reisz. Edna was given a choice between hot chocolate and brandy; she chose brandy. Edna drank that shot of brandy like a man would have done. She announced to Mademoiselle Reisz that she was going to be moving out of her house on Esplanade Street. Mademoiselle Reisz was neither shocked nor interested. Edna told her that she would be moving into a four bedroom house around the corner from her current house. She said that she had never felt at home in that house and she didn't want to have to deal with the upkeep of it anymore. Mademoiselle Reisz told Edna that that was not the reason she wanted to move out. Edna retorted that she wanted something that was her own. She told Mademoiselle Reisz that she had been selling her sketches, and that her father sent her money every month from her mother's estate; so she could afford to move into that house and have one of her maids with her. Edna also said that she would enjoy the feeling of being free and independent.

Mademoiselle Reisz asked Edna what her husband thought. Edna replied that the idea had only occurred to her that morning, and she had not told him about her plan yet. He would no doubt think she was crazy. Edna had come to the conclusion that she would no longer belong to anyone else, but herself. Edna announced that she would have a great dinner at the house before she moved out, and she insisted that Mademoiselle Reisz attend.
It had become Mademoiselle Reisz's custom to give Edna Robert's letters whenever Edna came over to visit, and she would play the piano while Edna read them. That day she took a letter from under the bust of Beethoven and gave it to Edna, who was surprised that he had sent another letter so soon. Edna asked her if Robert knew that she was reading his letters, Mademoiselle Reisz told her he would be very angry if he knew. Mademoiselle Reisz went over to the piano and began to play. Edna held the letter for a moment before reading it. Edna suddenly dropped the letter and rushed over to Mademoiselle Reisz and asked why she hadn't told her sooner that he was coming home. Edna demanded to know when, but Mademoiselle Reisz didn't know.

Mademoiselle asked Edna if she was in love with Robert, and for the first time Edna admitted that she was. She asked Edna what she would do when he came back, and Edna said that she would just be happy.

On her way home Edna stopped into a store and bought bonbons for her boys and enclosed a caring note. That night she wrote a letter to her husband telling him of her plans.

Chapter 27

Edna was in an unusually happy mood that night. Arobin found her reclining on a lounger, and she was kinder to him than she usually was. He sat down close to her, and asked her what had made her so happy. His fingers were caressing her hair as they spoke; Edna liked the way it felt when he touched her. Every once in a while his hand would brush her cheek or chin, which was becoming fleshy. She told him the reason she was happy was because the sun was in the forecast; Arobin knew this wasn't the truth, and he also knew that she would never tell him the real reason. Arobin leaned in and kissed her; Edna grasped the back of his head to prolong the kiss. That was Edna's first real kiss; it was the first time she ever felt that passionate during a kiss.

Chapter 28

Edna cried that night after Arobin left. She felt irresponsible. She could feel both her husband's and Robert's reproach. The veil had finally been lifted from her eyes, and she could see the world clearly. She wasn't ashamed nor did she regret her actions. The only thing she was sorry about was the fact that she didn't kiss him out of love.

Chapter 29

Edna didn't wait for her husband's reply; she made the preparations to move into the "pigeon house" all by herself. She didn't regret her decision at all, and she didn't give the matter another thought. She only took the things that belonged to her; everything that was bought with Lèonce's money was left alone. Edna had decided that Lèonce was going to foot the bill for the elaborate dinner that she was planning; she wondered what he would say or do when he got the bills.

Arobin came into the Pontellier house and found Edna on the top of a tall ladder, trying to take down a picture. Arobin insisted that she come down at once, but Edna told him that she was the only one who could do it.

Arobin took of his coat, symbolizing that he would do it for her. Ellen, Edna's maid, gave him a dust cap, which he put on; both women laughed at him. He climbed the ladder and took down the pictures, curtains, and ornaments that Edna instructed. Edna didn't want to be alone with Arobin, so she kept Ellen in the drawing-room with them on some pretext or other. Arobin asked Ellen to get him a glass of water, and Edna decided that it was time for Arobin to go. She walked with him towards the door. He asked her when he would be able to see her again, and she told him that he would not be able to see her again until the dinner. Edna left him at the foot of the stairs as she ascended to second floor. Arobin was dumbfounded.

Chapter 30

Edna selected her dinner guests very carefully; she planned on having eleven people plus her, but two of them couldn't come. The guests included: Mr. and Mrs. Merriman, Mrs. Highcamp, Alcée Arobin, Mademoiselle Reisz, Monsieur Ratignolle, Victor Lebrun, and Miss Mayblunt and her gentleman friend Gouvernail. Madame Ratignolle and Madame Lebrun both sent apologies for their absence. Edna sat in between Arobin and Monsieur Ratignolle.

"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.

The ordinary stiff dining chairs had been discarded for the occasion and replaced by the most commodious and luxurious which could be collected throughout the house. Mademoiselle Reisz, being exceedingly diminutive, was elevated upon cushions, as small children are sometimes hoisted at table upon bulky volumes" (121).

Miss Mayblunt asked Edna if the cluster of diamonds in her hair was new. Edna said that it was a gift from Mr. Pontellier that had arrived that morning. Edna admitted that it was her twenty-ninth birthday.
The dinner party split up into several conversations. Edna leaned her back against her chair; she took on the appearance of a queen sitting on her thrown observing her people. She began to feel a sense of hopelessness again; she longed for the one that she desired, but knew she could never have.

Monsieur Ratignolle excused himself from the dinner party at ten o'clock citing that Madame Ratignolle was anxiously awaiting him. Mademoiselle Reisz left at the same time that Monsieur Ratignolle did.

Victor, who was normally loud, was quiet due to alcohol that he had consumed. They all begged him to sing, and after a while he consented to do so. He turned to Edna and began to sing: "Ah! si tu savais!" Edna became very upset and told him to stop, but he didn't think she was serious and he continued on. Edna came over to him and put her hand over his mouth, and told him to stop. He stopped singing and kissed the palm of her hand.

Miss Mayblunt, Mr. Gouvernail, and Mr. and Mrs. Merriman left after Victor's song. Mrs. Highcamp asked Victor to call on her daughter, and then she left. Victor asked Arobin if were leaving also, but he said that he wasn't.


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

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