The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 21

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Chapter 21

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Mademoiselle Reisz seems pleasantly surprised to receive Edna as a visitor: "I had said to myself, 'Ah, bah! she will never come.'" She tells Edna she does not think that Edna likes her; Edna replies that she does not know whether she likes Mademoiselle Reisz or not. As they share coffee, Mademoiselle Reisz tells Edna that she has received a letter from Robert-a letter all about Edna. However, she refuses to let Edna see the letter, because it was not addressed to her. She asks Edna to tell her something about herself; Edna replies that she wants to be an artist. Mademoiselle Reisz responds that a successful artist "must possess the courageous soul . . . . The soul that dares and defies." Edna responds that she at least has persistence, and asks to see the letter again. Stating that Edna has "captivated" her, Mademoiselle Reisz relents. As Edna reads, Mademoiselle Reisz plays an Impromptu by composer Frederick Chopin (1810-1849). The music seems to mirror Edna's emotions of "soulful and poignant longing."
This chapter concludes by drawing readers' attention to the liminal (or transitional) state in which Edna now exists. As she leaves Mademoiselle Reisz' home, Edna is weeping as she did "one midnight"-notably, the hour at which one day transforms into the next-on Grand Isle, "when strange, new voices awoke in her." She pauses at the "threshold" of the house-a liminal location, often revelatory in literature-to ask if she might come again. Mademoiselle Reisz assures her she may, but she adds, with words readers will recognize as more significant than the characters know, "Be careful . . . don't stumble." She is referring, on the literal level, to the stairs to her apartment, but she might as well be referring to the journey of self-expression on which Edna is about to embark.

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