Pontellier comes home late at night and wakes Mrs. Pontellier to tell her about his night. She answers him drowsily, and he takes offense at her nonchalance. He forgot the candy he promised to bring the children, but he goes to the bedroom to check on them. He tells his wife that Raoul has a fever; Mrs. Pontellier assures him the child is fine, and Pontellier criticizes her for her perceived neglect. She checks on the children to humor him. Soon thereafter he falls asleep.
Pontellier expects Edna to attend to his every need, though he does not give a thought to her needs. When Pontellier feels his needs are not being met, he childishly diverts his irritation to Edna’s capacities as a mother. He is an ill-tempered bully who expects to have his way in every situation.
By now, Mrs. Pontellier is awake. She cries a little and goes out onto the porch. Suddenly she begins to cry intensely. She had never reacted quite this strongly to a domestic squabble; she feels a nameless darkness and exhaustion overcome her. She ignores the bites of the mosquitoes swarming around her.
Though Pontellier often scolds and bullies her, Edna responds to this instance with unusual intensity. She has a strong sense that something is wrong; that sense of injustice gives her a feeling of emptiness. Her awakening is beginning.
Pontellier eagerly sets out for a week of work in the city the next morning. He gives his wife a little money, which she accepts gratefully. Wife and children say a cheerful goodbye. A few days later, he sends her an expensive gift of food and wine, as is his habit. Mrs. Pontellier shares the gift with her friends, and they compliment his generosity. Mrs. Pontellier accepts the compliments with just a hint of sarcasm.
Despite her strange despair, Edna behaves with her usual docility the next morning. She obeys the force of habit and accepts Pontellier’s presents. But though her external behavior has not yet changed, some internal darkness and doubt have taken root.