The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 38

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Chapter 38

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As together they leave Madame Ratignolle, Doctor Mandelet asks if Edna and Mr. Pontellier will be going abroad upon his return. Edna says she will not be forced to travel, or to do anything else she does not want to do. She wants to be left alone (as Mandelet intuitively grasped in Chapter XXII). "Nobody has any right-except children, perhaps-and even then, it seems to me-or it did seem-" Mandelet again displays his intuition as he makes sense out of Edna's chaotic speech and thoughts: she, like all mothers before her, is experiencing the breakdown of her youthful illusions of freedom from responsibility to anyone but herself. Edna agrees, declaring that the past seems like a dream. She begins to express the hope that one might forever dream, but then resolves, "[P]erhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one's life." She says that all she wants is her own way, and indicates that she understands getting it means "trampl[ing] upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of others . . . ." Mandelet urges her to come see him soon, since few others, in his judgment, would understand what Edna means.
As Edna enters her house, she, ironically, is picturing "no greater bliss on earth than possession of the beloved one," Robert. The language is ironic because it is the language Edna has rejected, at least where she herself is concerned. On the other hand, perhaps the language is meant to suggest that, truly, "on earth" there can be no greater joy than "possession." Again, as the narrative has been making increasingly clear since Edna's "last supper" (Chapter XXX), Edna, since her awakening, does not and cannot belong here "on earth."
Edna finds that Robert has not waited for her. He has left only a cryptic note: "I love you. Good-by-because I love you." Edna goes to bed-but, significantly, she does not sleep. She is awake. She has been awakened. And so the stage is set for the final chapter.

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