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Free Study Guide-The Awakening by Kate Chopin-Free Online Booknotes
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Chapters VII-XII

Summary (continued)

Edna enjoys music, and often listens to Adèle practice. One piece she renamed "Solitude," because it reminded her of a man alone on the shore looking at a bird in flight. Other tunes provide other images. But Mademoiselle Reisz's playing sends shivers down Edna's spine. No pictures emerge, only pure passion. She trembles and sobs. When Mademoiselle Reisz stops playing, she abruptly leaves the room, pausing only to pat Edna on the shoulder. She claims that Edna is the only one worth playing for, but the others have also been aroused to a "fever of enthusiasm."

Robert proposes to the crowd a midnight swim and everyone agrees. Edna hears everything Robert says as she walks with her husband and the Ratignolles. She wants him to join them, although she has noticed that lately he often spends whole days away from her. The night is lovely, and the moon is out. The company walks calmly into the swelling sea.

Edna has been trying to learn how to swim properly all summer. Robert had become exasperated with her slow progress and her fear of the water. But that night, she suddenly realizes her powers and swims with confidence across the water's surface. Feeling her power, recklessly, she swims far out "where no woman had swum before."

She is the object of wonder, and everyone takes credit for their bit of teaching. "How easy it is!" she thinks, and rather than play with the others, she swims out alone, intoxicated by her new ability. She reaches out into the seemingly limitless seascape, to lose herself.

Suddenly, she realizes how far she has gone, and she has a quick vision of death. But she keeps her head and manages to swim back. She mentions this to her husband, who says that she was not so far out. He was watching her. Edna gets dressed and leaves the others, who call her to come back. Madame Lebrun worries that her departure might end the party and complains to Léonce that Edna is "capricious." "Sometimes, not often," he says.

Robert overtakes Edna, but she is impatient with his attentions. She is exhausted. The music has affected her; there will never be another night like this one. It is as if spirits were about. Robert says that this bit of coastline is haunted by a spirit every year on that night, the twenty-eighth of August, and he looks for a soul worthy of his company. The spirit has always been disappointed, until tonight, when Mrs. Pontellier was found. But Edna grows impatient with Robert and his stories.

He does not mind her impatience because he feels he really does understand her. He offers her his arm, but she does not lean on him. Her thoughts are elsewhere. He helps her into a hammock hanging from her porch, and she says goodnight. But Robert wants to stay. She sends him into the house to fetch her shawl. He returns and they sit in silence, but desire is there, too. Robert leaves when he hears the bathers approaching. Edna does not answer, and he thinks she is asleep, but she attentively watches him walk away.

Léonce wonders why she is not in bed. She does not reply. He wants her to go inside because of the cold and the mosquitoes. She refuses. Inside the cabin, he moves around impatiently. Usually, she would simply obey. Then he finally orders her to come in. She wonders that she ever would have responded to such a tone. She tells him to go to bed and to not speak to her like that again.

Léonce opens a bottle of wine, offers her some, sits in a rocker on the porch and smokes some cigars. Edna feels like she is waking out of a dream, but the need for sleep is also gaining on her. In the hour just before dawn she gets up and goes inside. She asks Léonce if he is coming, but he says he wants to finish his cigar.

She sleeps fitfully for a few hours, but gets up and gets dressed. She follows her impulses, as if she had put "herself in alien hands for direction and freed her soul of responsibility." A few others are up and heading for the dock to take the boat to mass over at the island, Chênière Caminada. Edna sends the little Negro girl into the house to wake Robert and to tell him to hurry to meet the boat. She had never asked directly for him before, and though neither seems to be conscious of this new direction, Robert's face has a certain glow when he meets her. They have coffee in the kitchen, and then they join the procession to the wharf: the lady in black, the lovers, Monsieur Farival, and a Spanish girl are all there. Robert knows the girl, Mariequita, and they speak in Spanish. Edna notices her coarse, dirty feet. Everyone is busy with his/her own business, but Edna examines Mariequita carefully.

The girl questions Robert about Edna's behavior, and about whether or not Edna is his lover. When he explains that Edna is married, Mariequita reminds Robert that marriage has not proved to be an obstacle to romance before now. With the boat under sail, Edna feels unmoored--a continuation of last night's feeling--and free to set sail herself. Robert ignores Mariequita and talks to Edna. Mariequita turns sullen.

Robert proposes that he and Edna go to Grand Terre the next day, and she likes the idea. Then they talk of taking a boat to find a hidden treasure. Edna could guide the way, and they would be rich.


In this section Edna Pontellier begins to transform. She has a new confidante in Adèle, albeit a temporary and not altogether satisfying one, and she visits her past in order to see it in a new way, and in new relation to the present. Edna is trying out new ways of being, and she begins to feel the freedom of creating herself. Primarily, Edna discovers a new way of being with people: intimacy. She has never really been intimate with anyone, and the possibility of becoming so is intoxicating to her. The sea, the field, and her intimacy with Adèle cause her to reveal more of herself than she had intended. From this conversation, one sees that Adèle has gleaned some important information. She has learned that Edna is somewhat vulnerable and that she does not really understand Creole sensibilities, hence Adèle's warning to Robert. It is an immediate danger signal that Robert does not seem to take Adèle's warning well.

In this section the reader receives more information about Edna's background. Edna has led a reserved life. She is ripe for her "awakening." There is also new information about the future: Robert is wanted in Vera Cruz, where a new life of adult responsibility awaits him.

As time passes, Edna grows into her new self: she feels Mademoiselle Reisz's music like no one else; she swims for the first time; she refuses to obey her husband; she invites Robert to go on an outing. The last two of these new experiences, while invigorating to Edna, are potentially dangerous violations of social conventions. At the end of this section, while Edna is making "plans" with Robert, his reliability is questioned: the presence of Mariequita reminds the reader of his connection to Mexico. Edna is bending her new freedom towards a potentially devastating sexual liaison. The stakes have been raised, and emotions are high.

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