The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 12

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Chapter 12

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On Sunday morning, Edna, after a brief and fitful sleep, sends word to Robert that she is going to the Ch�ni�re-a marshland area near Grand Isle that, according to Robert Looper in The Ch�ni�re Caminada Story (Blue Herron Press, 1993), was home to a multi-national, French-speaking fishing community -to celebrate Mass. As he accompanies her and others to the boat which will take them across to the Ch�ni�re, Robert speaks with "a young barefooted Spanish girl" named Mariequita. Edna notices Mariequita, which prompts Mariequita to ask Robert if she (that is, Edna) is Robert's sweetheart. Rather than denying it, Robert only responds, "She's a married lady, and has two children." The narrator thus lets readers know that Robert is well aware of his ability to create the difficult situations that Madame Ratignolle anticipated in Chapter VIII! True to form, then, Robert suggests-notably, "in a low voice," as if conspiratorially-to Edna that the two of them go to Grand Terre (an island in southeast Louisiana) the following day. Edna gazes toward Grand Terre in the distance and thinks "she would like to be alone there with Robert . . ." Truth be told, Edna is already feeling distant from her husband and the others; the voyage to the Ch�ni�re makes her feel "as if she were being borne away from some anchorage which had held her fast . . ." This image of liberation continues to develop the central theme of the novel: Edna's self-discovery, which equates to her freedom from the conventions of her society. Edna's desire for freedom is seen in a subtle remark: when Robert suggests that the two of them should, after Grand Terre, go fishing in the Bayou Brulow, Edna declines. She states they should instead go back to Grand Terre and "[l]et the fish alone." As with the caged parrot, the image of a fish being caught, even though it appears only briefly, suggests the entrapment from which Edna will escape.

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