The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 9

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Chapter 9

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On a Saturday night, an "unusual number" of men have returned to Grand Isle to spend the weekend with their families, who are entertaining them with a grand dinner. The entertainment at the dinner, however, is far from unusual: "the Farival twins"-who are dressed in "the Virgin's colors, blue and white, having been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin at their baptism"-play music on the piano that they have played many times before, prompting wrathful remarks from the parrot of Chapter I. A brother and sister, similarly, present speeches "which every one present had heard many times . . . ." Madame Ratignolle plays waltzes to which all present dance; she says she plays music "on account of the children"-a further highlight of her status as the Victorian domestic ideal.
As the evening of conventional entertainments wears on, Robert asks Edna if she would like to hear Mademoiselle Reisz play the piano. The narrator describes this new character as "a disagreeable little woman" who has "a temper which was self-assertive and a disposition to trample upon the rights of others." The description is ironic because Edna, like Mademoiselle Reisz, will begin to assert herself more as the novel continues. Edna's connection to Reisz is hinted at when she responds to the woman's playing of the piano with visceral emotion. When listening to Madame Ratignolle play, Edna had envisioned images "of solitude, of hope, of longing, or of despair." When Mademoiselle Reisz plays, however, Edna feels the emotions themselves, in powerful ways. Edna is so shaken that she cannot respond to Reisz' comment that she is "the only one worth playing for."

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