The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 10

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Chapter 10

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Upon Robert's suggestion, the Pontelliers and Ratignolles join him for a nighttime swim. Edna, who has previously regarded the ocean with apprehension and who has been trying all summer to learn how to swim, now joyously enters the waves, "boldly and with over-confidence." While the others think they are responsible for bringing Edna to this new embrace of the ocean, Edna realizes that she would have been able to enjoy the water long before, had she but allowed herself to feel such freedom. Rather than swimming with the others, she swims out alone, "reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself." Although she experiences a "quick vision of death" when she swims out a distance she feels is too far from the others (but which both the narrator and Mr. Pontellier say is not really too far at all), she successfully returns to land. She confides in Robert, as they return to the house ahead of the others, that she wonders if she will ever again feel as moved as she was this night by Mademoiselle Reisz' piano playing. Robert tells her that this night, August 28th, is an enchanted night in which a spirit who haunts the Gulf of Mexico "seeks some one mortal worthy to hold him company . . . . [and] to-night he found Mrs. Pontellier." Edna rests in a hammock upon their return to the house; Robert stays with her until the others return. They do not speak, but the narrator tells us those silent moments are full of "the first-felt throbbings of desire."

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