The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 13

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Chapter 13

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During the Mass at the Ch�ni�re, a "feeling of oppression and drowsiness" overcomes Edna. A lack of freedom, a lack of "awakening"-these reactions drive Edna from the service, followed by Robert. He takes her to the cottage of Madame Antoine, where Edna is welcomed with gracious hospitality. Edna takes a long, refreshing nap, after which she-alone-eats "a crusty brown loaf" and drinks from "a bottle of wine" which have been prepared on a table for her. This meal, and not the stifling ceremony of the church, is Edna's Mass (anticipating her "last supper" in Chapter XXX). She joins Robert, "who did not know she was awake"-a significant phrase, for Edna seems to be realizing the same thing for herself. She asks Robert, "How many years have I slept?" In its immediate context, the question refers, of course, to Edna's afternoon slumber; on a larger level, however, the question is one of the central ones in the novel: How long has Edna "slept," lulled by the conventions of life, religious and otherwise? How much of her life has passed her by, and what will she do now that she is finally awakening? How will others react? We gain a hint of the answer to the last question when Robert informs Edna that the rest of the party returned home, having discovered her asleep and thinking it "best not to wake [her]." No doubt, for Edna's "awakening" challenges the norms of their world. Edna is waking up into a world of her own, where-as but one example-a solitary meal with Eucharistic overtones offers truer worship (but not of any conventional god) than the officially sanctioned Mass. Robert serves Edna broiled fish-another religious echo: the risen Christ shared a breakfast of broiled fish by the sea with his disciples (John 21:9-14; cf. Luke 24:41-43). As Edna and Robert prepare to leave the Ch�ni�re in the boat belonging to Madame Antoine's son Tonie, the narrator tells readers that "misty spirit forms were prowling in the shadows" and "upon the water were phantom ships"-details which reinforce our growing understanding that, slowly but surely, Edna is leaving this world for another, more spiritual one. Through such attention to language and allusive detail, Chopin perhaps hopes to foster an "awakening" in her readers which mirrors Edna's own.

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