March 13, 2016

Kate Chopin's The Awakening Chapter 31-39 (Summary)

The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin

Chapter 31

After everyone had left, Arobin asked Edna what was next on her agenda. She told him that the lights had to be turned off and the windows had to be closed, and then she would go over to the "pigeon house." Arobin began to turn off lights. Edna sent him upstairs to shut windows, and she asked him to fetch her wrap. Edna closed windows and doors downstairs.

When they were done Robert locked the front door and walked Edna to the other house. They walked into the house, which opened into the parlor, and the room was filled with flowers. Arobin had sent them to Edna while she was out. Edna sat down. Arobin asked if she was tired; Edna said that she was. He asked her if she wanted him to leave; she said yes. He stood next to her, stroking her hair. It was very soothing, and Edna could have fallen asleep if he continued to stroke her hair. He put his hand on her shoulder, and sat down. He kissed her shoulder. He only left after Edna had become completely relaxed under his touch.

Chapter 32

When Mr. Pontellier received Edna's letter, informing him of her intentions, he immediately wrote her a letter conveying his disapproval. The reasons she gave him were not good enough; he did not understand why she would want to do such a thing. He asked her to think about what people might say. He was not concerned about any scandal revolving around his wife, but he was concerned that people might think that they were having financial problems.

He knew that Edna was going to do what she wanted; so he wrote a letter to an architect. He gave the architect instructions on the remodeling that he wanted done to the house on Esplanade Street while he was gone. He also wrote a letter to a newspaper saying that he and Mrs. Pontellier intended to spend their summer abroad, and their house would be undergoing renovation while they were gone. Mr. Pontellier had succeeded in keeping up appearances; Edna admired him for his cleverness.

Edna began to see the world with new eyes. She no longer relied on other people to provide her with opinions; she could develop her opinions. Edna was no longer a mindless drone.

A few days after she moved into the "pigeon house," Edna decided to go and visit her children in Iberville. It was February. She was very happy to see her children, and they were happy to see her. They showed her all the wonders of the country. She told them about her new house, and they were excited to see it. She stayed with them for a whole week. Old Madame Pontellier was happy that Edna visited, and she was happy to hear about the renovations at the house on Esplanade Street; she hoped she would be able to keep the children indefinitely.

It was hard for her to leave the children, but by the time she got home, she was happy to be alone again.

Chapter 33

If Mademoiselle Reisz was out when Edna came over, Edna would let herself in with the hide-a-key. One day, Edna had decided to go see Mademoiselle Reisz after she had a string of visitors that kept interrupting her work.

She was not there so Edna let herself in. Madame Ratignolle had come over to check out Edna's new little house. She told Edna that she was acting like a child lately. She asked Edna where Mr. Pontellier and the boys were supposed to sleep in that tiny place. Madame Ratignolle also suggested that Edna have someone come and stay with her; so that her reputation wouldn't be called into question. She asked Edna about Alcée Arobin, and warned her of his reputation. She finally told Edna that she wouldn't be able to come back to that house, loosely implying that it was because of the company Edna was choosing to keep lately. She told Edna to come and see her, and then she left.

Edna was bored, and began to play an aria that was left open at the piano. Someone knocked on Mademoiselle Reisz' door and Edna shouted for them to come in. Robert Lebrun came in; they were both shocked to see each other. Edna asked him when he had come back. He told her that he got back a couple of days ago. She thought that he would have come to her as soon as he got back to New Orleans, but instead they only ran into each other by accident. She asked him if he had had any intention of coming to see her. He told her that he had so many things to do since he got back that there was no time. She asked him why he hadn't written to her. He told her that he didn't think that she would be interested in his letters. Edna was annoyed; she got up, picked up her hat, and pinned it in her hair. Robert asked her if she was leaving, and she said yes. He left with her, and followed her home.

She asked him to stay for dinner; at first he was hesitant, but eventually accepted. He started to seem like the old Robert again. Robert picked up a picture of Alcée Arobin and asked her why she had it. Edna told him that she had tried sketching Arobin one day. Robert wondered out loud why she hadn't gotten rid of it after she was done; Edna said that she had many photographs of people, and she wouldn't dare get rid of any of them. Robert threw the picture down on the pile, and changed the subject. They sat together reminiscing about Grande Isle until dinner.

Chapter 34

Edna's dining room was very small; the table barely fit. When they sat down to dinner an air of decorum washed over them; the conversation changed to one that was less intimate. Robert talked about his trip to Mexico, and Edna talked about trivial things that happened in New Orleans during his absence.

After dinner, Robert went out to buy cigarette paper. When he got back; Celestine had brought the coffee into the parlor. Robert and Edna sat down together, and Robert took out his tobacco pouch. Edna noticed that the pouch had been handmade out of silk; when they were at Grande Isle he had a rubber pouch. Edna asked him if a woman made it for him. Robert told her that a girl in Vera Cruz had given it to him, because they are very generous down there. Edna tried to ascertain whether or not Robert had had an intimate relationship with the girl, who had made the pouch, but Robert deflected the question by saying that he didn't know her well. He put the pouch back in his pocket as a way to end the conversation.

Arobin stopped by to give a message to Edna from Mrs. Merriman. Robert and Arobin said hello to each other, and engaged in the polite conversation, which decorum dictated to be mandatory. After a while Robert got up, and made an excuse to leave. Everyone said their goodbyes, and Robert left. Arobin asked Edna how she knew Robert Lebrun; she told him that she knew him from Grande Isle. Edna handed Arobin's picture to him, but he refused to take it; Edna threw it back down on the table. Arobin sat down and began to read the evening paper while Edna wrote Mrs. Merriman a note. When she was done Arobin asked her what she wanted to do; Edna said she just wanted to be quiet. She told Arobin to go, which he did.

Edna sat alone in the parlor thinking about the day she had just had. She relived every moment she had with Robert that day. She thought about every word he said, and every look he cast upon her. She felt a jealous pang when the image of the girl in Vera Cruz, who had given Robert the pouch, popped into her head.

Chapter 35

The next morning Edna was filled with hope as she awoke to the bright sunlight. She went over in her head the possible motives of why Robert seemed so distant towards her; it was unlike him to be so proper with her. She was convinced that he would come by to see her again sometime during the day, and everything would be as it was.

At breakfast, Edna read the letters that Raoul, Mr. Pontellier, and Arobin had sent her. Raoul told his mother about the ten piglets they had found that morning, and he asked her to send more bonbons. Mr. Pontellier informed Edna that he would be returning in March, and after that they would go abroad. Arobin's note was just to say good morning. Edna wrote the boys a letter, telling them that she was happy to hear about the piglets, and she promised to send them bonbons. She replied to Lèonce's letter as vaguely as possible; she didn't know what the future held, but she resigned herself to Fate. Edna did not reply to Arobin.

Edna worked for a long time that day. Robert did not come that day or the days following. She was hopeful every morning when she awoke that he would come to her, and each night she felt a sense of hopelessness when he did not. She avoided any place that she might see him, no matter how strong her urge was to seek him out.

One night, Arobin managed to talk Edna into going for a drive with him. His horses were in a peculiar mood; uncontrollable and wild. Edna loved it. Arobin felt that he was beginning to win over Edna's heart. That night she didn't feel the familiar hopelessness that she had been feeling the previous nights. The next morning she didn't feel at all hopeful.

Chapter 36

On the outskirts of town there was a garden that had a few tables underneath some trees. It was owned by an old mulatresse, who sold milk and cream cheese. Edna had found it accidently one day while on one of her walks, and had been going back there ever since. She never expected to run into anyone that she knew there, because it was so out of the way. One day, she stopped in for an early dinner. She was reading a book and petting the lady's cat when she looked up, and to her surprise she saw Robert. He was also surprised, and a bit uncomfortable at having run into her so unexpectedly.

Robert sat down with her. He asked her if she came there a lot, and explained that he used to come there a lot for coffee before he went to Mexico. Edna had promised herself that she would be as reserved as he had been the last time they saw each other, but that didn't last. Edna asked him why he hadn't come to see her. He asked Edna why she insisted on making him answer such personal questions. She told him that he was selfish. Robert retorted by saying that she was cruel to force him into admitting things that could not result in anything. Edna changed the subject; she began talking about how she found that little place. She said that she liked to walk and explore, and she felt sorry for those women who didn't like walking.

Robert walked Edna home; it was growing dark by the time they arrived at Edna's place. She didn't ask him to stay, which he was happy about; he could stay without having to come up with an excuse not to. Edna went into her room to wash her face and hands; Robert sat in the shadows of the parlor. Edna came back into the room and went up to Robert; she bent over and kissed him. She withdrew from him after she kissed him, and he followed her. Robert took a hold of her, and held her close to him. He kissed her, and then pulled her down onto the sofa. They sat there together, Robert holding one of her hands in both of his. He told her that now she knew how he felt. He admitted that while he was in Mexico he had many crazy dreams; he dreamed that Mr. Pontellier let Edna go, and she married him. Edna told him that she was no longer Mr. Pontellier's to give up; she was the only one who made decisions that concerned her.

Celestine interrupted them with a note from Madame Ratignolle. Edna had promised to stop by and see her ailing friend. She told Celestine to tell Madame Ratignolle's servant to wait for her, and they would go together.

Edna whispered "I love you" in Robert's ear, and told him to wait for her. She told him that it was he that opened her eyes to the world. Robert begged her not to go, but she left him there.

Chapter 37

Edna went into the Ratignolle's drug store; Monsieur Pontellier was concocting a tonic. Edna went up the private stairway at the back of the drug store, which led to the Ratignolle's apartment. She found Madame Ratignolle lying on the couch, refusing to go back to her room, and complaining that she was being neglected by everyone. Doctor Mandelet had not arrived yet, and she was anxious. The nurse told her that she had heard the doctor's coupé pull up outside, Monsieur Ratignolle was coming down the hall, and Edna was here with her. She, finally, consented to going back into her bedroom. Madame Ratignolle insisted that Edna stay with her while she was in with the doctor. Madame Ratignolle was pregnant and was in the early stages of labor. Edna stayed with her for a long time. When Edna leaned into kiss her goodbye, Madame Ratignolle told Edna to think of the children.

Chapter 38

Doctor Mandelet walked Edna home. He told her that she shouldn't have been there, because she was too impressionable. He asked her when Mr. Pontellier was coming home, and if they were going abroad when he returned. Edna told him that Lèonce was coming home in March. She started to tell him that she might go abroad, but then changed her mind and said that she would not be going abroad; she just wanted to be left alone. The doctor told her that she seemed to be in trouble, and told her that she should come and see him soon; they would talk everything out, and she would feel better. Edna told him that she did not want to talk to him about her troubles. He left her at her house. She sat outside on the porch, reminiscing about the night she had had. She remembered the feeling of Robert's embrace and lips. She longed for him. She went into the house, expected to find Robert asleep; she hoped to find him asleep, so that she could wake him with her kiss. Robert was not there; the house was deserted. Edna found a note from Robert that read: "I love you. Good-by-because I love you" (158). Edna lay on the couch, and stayed there awake until Celestine came in to light the fire.

Chapter 39

Victor was fixing one of the galleries. Mariequita sat nearby watching him work. She liked to listen to Victor describe the dinner at Mrs. Pontellier's house, and Victor liked to exaggerate the evening when he told her about it. She thought that Victor was in love with Edna, and would tease him about it. He would be very vague and evasive when he answered questions about Edna, which made her think that he really did like Edna.

Edna came around the corner, shocking the pair. Victor told Edna that she could stay in his room, since it was the only one ready for occupation. When Mariequita first saw Edna there she thought that she and Victor were going to have a secret rendezvous, but when she saw the shock on his face she knew that that was not so.

Edna asked Victor what was for dinner, because she was really hungry. She told him not to go to any trouble on her account. Edna announced that she would like to go for a swim before dinner. Victor and Mariequita said that the water was way too cold to swim in. Edna said that she would just put her toes in. Mariequita went up to Victor's room and got a towel for Edna. Edna went down to the shore. She went into her bathhouse and found her swimsuit still hung up in there; she put it on and went down to the shore. Edna had been overcome by despondency the previous night after she had come home to find that Robert had left. She came to the realization that nothing would ever make her happy; she would never be satisfied. The feelings she had for Robert would fade, and she would move onto another and then another.

When she stood before the sea she took off the bathing suit, and stood there all alone naked. She felt like a newborn baby, seeing and experiencing the world for the first time. She walked out into the cold sea. She remembered the night that she had first learned how to swim, and how scared she felt when she swam out too far. She did not turn back, but kept swimming out. She thought about the meadow that she had run through as a child. She was growing tired, but did not turn around. She thought of her husband and children; they would never possess her. She was becoming overwhelmed by fatigue. Doctor Mandelet may have been able to help her, but it was too late. She heard her father and sister's voices, and the barking of a dog. She heard the spurs of the Calvary officer as they clashed against the floor. Her strength was diminishing. "There was the hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air" (163).


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

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