Edna and her father quarrel when Edna refuses to attend her sister’s wedding, and she is glad to see him leave. Pontellier decides to make up for his wife’s rudeness with expensive gifts; the Colonel advises him to keep a stricter rein on his wife.
We learn from the Colonel’s incidental comment that Edna grew up in a harsh, restrictive family, where her father dominated over her mother and the three sisters.
As Pontellier prepares to leave for his prolonged business trip, Edna becomes affectionate and solicitous. But his departure, and the departure of the children gone to visit their grandmother, comes as an enormous relief. She feels a new sense of freedom and a renewed curiosity for her surroundings, especially the garden. She even enjoys planning her meals. She determines to use her free time to read and study, and picks up a copy of Emerson’s essays.
When her husband and children leave, Edna realizes how much she values the freedom their absence affords her—both freedom from familial obligations and freedom from immediate emotional ties. Her choice of reading material is significant: Emerson is famous for his essays on freedom and self-reliance.