The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 15

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Chapter 15

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One evening at dinner, Edna is surprised to learn that Robert plans to leave Grand Isle that night for Mexico. This revelation reinforces Edna's sense of isolation from the rest of society; while others at the table prattle on about Mexico, she herself has nothing to say or think about the country, and wonders "if they had all gone mad." When Edna leaves the table and does not return, Madame Ratignolle goes to see what is the matter; however, she does not offer Edna much comfort, and leaves her rather quickly, "being in truth rather desirous of joining in the general and animated conversation which was still in progress concerning Mexico and the Mexicans."
Edna expresses her displeasure to Robert before he leaves. She says she had planned on being with him for some time. In an unguarded moment, Robert says he had made the same plans, and adds, "Perhaps that's the-" before catching himself. When he says good-bye to Edna, he addresses her formally as "my dear Mrs. Pontellier." The phrase sounds like a written salutation and, in fact, Edna immediately requests that Robert correspond with her. He makes a half-hearted promise to do so. As Robert departs, Edna tearfully recognizes her infatuation with him, the same feelings of infatuation she has felt for various men in years past. This emotional recognition leads her to conclude that the past offers no valuable lesson, and the future remains unknown: "The present alone was significant," tormenting her with the knowledge that "she had been denied that which her impassioned, newly awakened being demanded." Perhaps Chopin is ironically employing the Carpe diem (Latin, "seize the day") motif common in much (especially romantic) literature: while the motif is usually used as an argument for romantic love in the present moment, here it pushes Edna into realizing how she has failed to "seize the day," and seems to inspire her resolve not to make the same mistake again, as later chapters will bear out.

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