The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 36

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Chapter 36

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While eating dinner one afternoon in a suburban garden, Edna's and Robert's paths cross again. Her former resolve to be reserved when seeing him again almost immediately evaporates; she asks him why he has been avoiding her. Robert protests that she is "so personal" and "cruel," forcing him to give her excuses. He does, however, escort her back to her house, where she kisses him. He responds, saying that he has been fighting his love for her. He says he thought of Edna during his entire time in Mexico; Edna reminds him that he never wrote to her, a reminder to which Robert does not directly respond. Instead, he points to her married status as the reason why he never dared express his dream that she might become his wife. Edna informs him that he has been "a very, very foolish boy," for she is "no longer one of Mr. Pontellier's possessions" (recall again the narrator's comment in Chapter III). Interestingly, Robert reacts to the news of Edna's newfound freedom with seeming alarm-an indication, perhaps, that he did not expect Edna to take him at his word.
At any rate, their conversation is interrupted when Celestine, Edna's servant, brings word that Madame Ratignolle is ill and requests Edna's presence. Before she leaves, Edna declares her love to Robert. She asks him to wait for her until she gets back. The narrator comments that Robert has been "deprived . . . of every impulse but the longing to hold her and keep her." The narrator is employing irony: while Edna has just declared her freedom from all such notions of being "held" and "kept" as one keeps property or possessions, Robert's dreams of Edna are couched in just such language. Readers may sense that neither Robert nor Edna's futures are likely to be as bright as the characters imagine they will be, since those futures represent opposite views of Edna's place in the world-a world which, we have been warned through narrative details (e.g., the "last supper" of Chapter XXX), Edna will (must?) soon be departing.

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