The Awakening

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Adèle Ratignolle Character Analysis

Edna’s close friend and temperamental opposite, Madame Ratignolle is the model of Victorian womanhood: she is pretty, fragile, warm-hearted, and completely devoted to her husband and children. She seems to find satisfaction in her motherly and wifely chores, and she urges her friend to do the same. Her tiny, placid world, with its mundane pleasures and tepid artistic efforts, is precisely the world Edna tries to leave behind.

Adèle Ratignolle Quotes in The Awakening

The The Awakening quotes below are all either spoken by Adèle Ratignolle or refer to Adèle Ratignolle. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Awakening published in 1993.
Chapter 4 Quotes

They were women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.

Related Characters: Adèle Ratignolle
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator begins to contrast Edna's lack of motherliness with many of the other women on the island—chief among them, her friend Adèle Ratignolle. While Edna's role as wife and mother does not quite fit her, women like Adèle seem perfectly suited to the task. Indeed, in serving their husbands and their children, they feel themselves blessed, even as they erase themselves as "individuals" and instead become selfless "angels."

It is with a fair amount of sarcasm that the narrator describes these perfect wives and mothers. The idea of destroying oneself as an individual is a horrifying one, and yet these figures view it as a "holy privilege." Although Léonce may wish that his wife were more like these women, readers can clearly see how deluded they are, and how impoverished are their lives. At the same time, however, society esteems these women as paragons of virtue, and the height of femininity. They are content and comfortable, while the more self-aware Edna is increasingly tortured. 

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Chapter 18 Quotes

The little glimpse of domestic harmony which had been offered her, gave her no regret, no longing. It was not a condition of life which fitted her, and she could see in it but an appalling and hopeless ennui. She was moved by a kind of commiseration for Madame Ratignolle,—a pity for that colorless existence which never uplifted its possessor beyond the region of blind contentment, in which no moment of anguish ever visited her soul, in which she would never have the taste of life’s delirium.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier, Adèle Ratignolle
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

After dining with Adèle Ratignolle and her husband, Edna reflects on how different their domestic tranquility and harmony is from her own unsettled, discontented life. Having observed how Adèle worshiped and deferred to her husband at every turn, Edna realizes that she does not envy her friend, no matter how content she may seem. In fact, she actually pities Adèle, who (she assumes) will never realize the fullness and richness of life.

Having become increasingly aware of her own suffocating circumstances, Edna now feels pity for other women, such as Adèle, who do not perceive the strictures all around them. Although her new condition is a painful and confusing one, Edna reflects that she would rather experience "anguish" and "delirium" rather than return to the "colorless existence" of a woman like Adèle. She is now choosing Romanticism, with all its flaws, over the practical world of Realism.

Chapter 37 Quotes

With an inward agony, with a flaming, outspoken revolt against the ways of Nature, she witnessed the scene of torture.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier, Adèle Ratignolle
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

Edna is summoned to Adéle Ratignolle's bedside, where she watches her friend give birth. As she sees the expectant mother's physical anguish, Edna herself feels an "inward agony." She hates "Nature" for imposing such "torture" on women, and internally "revolt[s]" against a world of such pain and unfairness. 

Traditionally, childbirth and motherhood are considered the pinnacles of a woman's life. In reality, however, natural childbirth is a painful and dangerous process, one that unfairly falls entirely to women. Edna feels an internal sense of disgust and injustice, one that makes her despise Nature for forcing women through such an ordeal.

Edna's inner life has now broken from the entire world. She now hates not only society, but also nature itself, and palpably feels the pain and injustice of being a woman in the world. Her love for Robert remains her one last link to the world around her. 

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Adèle Ratignolle Character Timeline in The Awakening

The timeline below shows where the character Adèle Ratignolle appears in The Awakening. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...for comfort. The other mothers at Grand Isle, by contrast, are nervous, protective, and self-sacrificing. Adèle Ratignolle, a friend of Mrs. Pontellier’s, is the epitome of such a woman: beautiful, graceful,... (full context)
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Action and Reflection Theme Icon
Madame Ratignolle is sewing a child’s garment at Mrs. Pontellier’s cottage when Mr. Pontellier’s package arrives. Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
As Madame Ratignolle sews, Robert and Mrs. Pontellier chat intimately. Robert has been spending a great deal of... (full context)
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
...she pushes him away. Her two children run in from outside and beg for candies. Madame Ratignolle says she feels ill, as she often does; Mrs. Pontellier suspects that it’s only an... (full context)
Chapter 7
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Action and Reflection Theme Icon
...outer life: the inner life is free, the outer life is confined by custom. Under Adèle’s influence, she has been growing less reserved. (full context)
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Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
Adèle and Mrs. Pontellier walk to the beach one morning. Mrs. Pontellier is slim, poised, and... (full context)
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Realism and Romanticism Theme Icon
...love him, and she loves her children only intermittently. Edna confesses most of this to Madame Ratignolle . Robert and the children approach them; Madame Ratignolle leaves the beach with Robert. (full context)
Chapter 8
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On their way from the beach, Madame Ratignolle asks Robert to keep away from Mrs. Pontellier, who, she says, might take his attentions... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Realism and Romanticism Theme Icon
...very small girl in a fancy costume performs a dance as her mother watches avidly. Madame Ratignolle plays the piano—mostly, she says, for the sake of her family. (full context)
Chapter 14
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When she comes home that night with Robert, Edna takes Etienne and Raoul from Madame Ratignolle , who had been watching them, and helps Etienne get to sleep. Pontellier had been... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...brings an invitation from the Lebruns, but Edna declines for now. Outside, she complains to Madame Ratignolle about Robert’s dramatic decision; her friend leaves to say goodbye to Robert soon after. (full context)
Chapter 16
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Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
Edna remembers telling Madame Ratignolle in a casual conversation that she would never sacrifice herself for her children—she would sacrifice... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Since she is not in the mood to draw, Edna leaves the house to visit Madame Ratignolle . As on most occasions, she thinks a great deal about Robert. When she reaches... (full context)
Chapter 33
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...her, so Edna lets herself in to wait in the living room. Earlier that day, Madame Ratignolle had interrupted Edna’s painting with a social visit. She advised Edna not to spend so... (full context)
Chapter 36
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Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...she does not belong to anyone any more. She is called away suddenly to help Madame Ratignolle , who is having some sort of crisis. Before she leaves, she tells Robert she... (full context)
Chapter 37
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Edna goes to see Madame Ratignolle , who, it turns out, is about to give birth; she is tired and inconsolable.... (full context)