free booknotes online

Help / FAQ

<- Previous Page | First Page | Next Page ->
Free Study Guide-The Awakening by Kate Chopin-Free Online Booknotes
Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version

Chapters XVII-XXI


The Pontelliers have a "charming home" on Esplanade Street, in New Orleans. It is large, with a wide verandah, and it is furnished with all of Léonce's other prized possessions. He is a collector and revels in his new acquisitions. The luxury of the Pontellier's house again marks Léonce as a very generous husband.

Every Tuesday Mrs. Pontellier receives guests at home, dressed in a reception gown. Women visit during the day, and some men come in the evening with their wives. Edna and Léonce spend other evenings at plays or the opera. Léonce goes to work every day between nine and ten, and comes home at about seven. Dinner is at half past seven.

But one Tuesday Mrs. Pontellier decides not to receive any guests. At dinner that night, Mr. Pontellier is scandalized by his wife's apparent disregard for custom. Léonce points out to Edna that they must "keep up with the procession," and he pours through the cards of guests who arrived and were turned away during Edna's absence. He becomes angry while also complaining about the soup and the cook. Edna sees no point in all the fuss. The fish and roast and vegetables are not cooked properly, and Léonce is vexed at thinking where his money goes. He wants Edna to look after the household since he takes care of business ventures. He leaves the house to go to his club for a decent meal. This is not the first time their evening has ended this way.

Edna once would have tried to fix the situation, but tonight she finishes her dinner with determination, and goes to her room with orders that no one is to disturb her. There is witchery beyond the windows of Edna's pretty room, in the garden and the night, and though Edna strives to find peace in the darkness, she finds, instead, a restlessness. She takes off her wedding ring and stomps on it, but to no avail. She flings a vase on the floor and shatters it. When a maid comes in to see what is wrong, she finds the ring and hands it to Edna. Edna merely slips it back on her finger.

The next day, Edna declines Léonce's offer to go shopping for new light fixtures. She wants to save money. He plans to make money. He leaves, reminding her to take care of herself. The children and their nurse are playing, there is a vendor shouting in the street, and all of Edna's world seems suddenly antagonistic to her. Léonce had already yelled at the cook. She looks through her sketches, finds a few which do not displease her, dresses handsomely, and takes the sketches out with her.

She is still thinking of Robert. She knows it is an obsession, rising and falling into intense longing.

Edna goes to the Ratignolles' house. She has kept up their friendship since the summer at Grand Isle. The Ratignolles live above Monsieur Ratignolle's drug store. He is well respected, and Edna thinks their living arrangement rather foreign and interesting. They hold musical soirées (evening entertainments) every few weeks.

Adèle is sorting clothes when Edna enters. She instructs her maid to check the laundry carefully. The women go to the front salon, and Edna notices that Adèle looks stunning in her housedress. Edna shows Adèle the sketches, although knows that Adèle knows next to nothing about such things. Predictably, Adèle praises her talents. Edna realizes that Adèle's profuse praise means very little, and she gives her a few of the sketches to keep. Adèle raves about them and shows them to her husband when he arrives to have lunch with them.

The three eat together. The meal is wonderful, and Edna realizes that Mr. and Mrs. Ratignolle are perfectly matched. When Monsieur Ratignolle speaks, Adèle appears keenly interested and seems always to understand him. They are perfectly happy together, and their household is marvelously run. But when Edna leaves, she is profoundly depressed--not because she envies them, but because their life looks terribly boring to her. She feels "a pity for that colorless existence which never uplifted its possessor beyond the region of blind contentment." It seems to Edna that Adèle will never taste "life's delirium," a phrase which Edna herself does not completely understand, but which implies being exposed to all that life has to offer. The status of protected wife can never offer such exposure.

Edna completely dispenses with her Tuesdays at home and lives according to her desires as much as possible. This independence bewilders Léonce. He expects Edna's submissiveness, and he is shocked at her disregard for her "duties." As he becomes more rude, Edna gets more insolent.

Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version

<- Previous Page | First Page | Next Page ->
Free Study Guide-The Awakening by Kate Chopin-Free Online Plot Synopsis


All Contents Copyright
All rights reserved. Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.

About Us
 | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page
This page was last updated: 10/18/2019 3:26:48 PM