The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 3

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Chapter 3

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Mr. Pontellier does not return until late that night. He disturbs Edna's sleep as he noisily empties his pockets and shares the gossip he has heard during the day with her. He is upset by her apparent lack of interest in what he has to say. He checks on his sleeping boys-for whom, the narrator notes, he has forgotten to bring the promised bonbons and peanuts-and announces to Edna that one of the children, Raoul, has a fever and needs attention. He then proceeds to smoke a cigar, criticizing Edna for being a poor mother. While her husband sleeps, Edna goes out to the porch to cry. She experiences an "indescribable oppression," and readers can no doubt understand why. She is in a relationship with a man who regards her as little more than his personal property, intended to cater to his needs no matter the hour of day or night (an identification which Edna explicitly rejects toward the novel's end; see Chapter XXXVI). Clearly, the narrator wishes reader to sympathize with Edna, rather than her husband.
The next morning, Mr. Pontellier gives Edna "half of the money which he had brought away from Klein's hotel"-perhaps gambling winnings. She accepts the money gladly, thinking she will use it to buy a wedding present for her younger sister, Janet. But Mr. Pontellier dismisses that idea with a laugh and a promise to do better for Janet (that is, presumably, to spend more money, more of his money). Having said good-bye to his family, he leaves to return to his business in New Orleans. He sends Edna a box of treats. The ladies of Grand Isle declare Edna's husband to be "the best husband in the world. Mrs. Pontellier [is] forced to admit that she knew of none better"-the narrator's ironic statement does not close off the possibility that better husbands and, indeed, better lives may, in fact, exist!

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