The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 11

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Chapter 11

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Mr. Pontellier is surprised to find Edna still outside when he returns from escorting Madame Lebrun home. In a small but no doubt significant exchange-considering the events of the evening, and the novel's title-her distant and unperceiving husband asks her, "Are you asleep?" Edna, with eyes "bright and intense," definitively replies, "No." Although he asks her to come in to the house with him, she refuses, and remains outside, exercising her own will. As if trying to outlast his wife, Mr. Pontellier smokes cigar after cigar next to her. Gradually, Edna succumbs to her need for sleep. She feels "like one who awakens gradually out of a . . . delicious, grotesque, impossible dream . . . ." As described in Chapter VII, then, Edna is once again undergoing what might be called a "negative" "awakening"-an "awakening" to the realities of her present life-as opposed to the "positive" awakening to new possibilities and her own self-direction, to which the nighttime swim began to expose her. As if to underscore her failure to "awaken" to herself, the chapter ends with a scene of tables being turned: as Edna goes in, she asks her husband if he will be joining her. He says he will, as soon as he has finished his last cigar. While the narrator does not record Mr. Pontellier's tone of voice, the comments seem almost scornful, mockingly echoing Edna's earlier self-assertion.

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