The Awakening

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Edna Pontellier Character Analysis

The novel’s sad heroine, a twenty-eight-year-old housewife and mother of two whose personality blurs and sharpens from minute to minute. The novel chronicles her transformation from a quiet, not entirely content housewife to a spirited, freethinking artist haunted by feelings of aimlessness and despair. Her vacation at Grand Isle precipitates the moment she calls her awakening: a combination of Mademoiselle Reisz’s beautiful music, Robert’s romantic attentions, and an inexplicable deepening of her self-understanding that together cause her to recognize the meaninglessness of most conventions, the deceits and injustices of family life, and the emptiness of her social attachments. With time, she acts more and more freely according to her new convictions: she neglects family responsibilities and superficial social obligations, and she seeks refuge in art and in the company of similarly minded friends. In the end, however, her unhappy love affair and her deeply conflicted desire for total freedom are more than she can bear.

Edna Pontellier Quotes in The Awakening

The The Awakening quotes below are all either spoken by Edna Pontellier or refer to Edna Pontellier. 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
).
Chapter 1 Quotes

“You are burnt beyond recognition,” he added, looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage.

Related Characters: Léonce Pontellier (speaker), Edna Pontellier
Chapter 2 Quotes

Mrs. Pontellier’s eyes were quick and bright; they were a yellowish brown, about the color of her hair. She had a way of turning them swiftly upon an object and holding them there as if lost in some inward maze of contemplation and thought. … She was rather handsome than beautiful. Her face was captivating by reason of a certain frankness of expression and a contradictory subtle play of features.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier
Chapter 3 Quotes

An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish. It was like a shadow, like a mist passing across her soul’s summer day.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier
Chapter 6 Quotes

Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier
Related Symbols: The Sea
Chapter 7 Quotes

At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier

The acme of bliss, which would have been marriage with the tragedian, was not for her in this world. As the devoted wife of a man who worshipped her, she felt she would take her place with a certain dignity in the world of reality, closing the portals forever behind her upon the realm of romance and dreams.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier
Chapter 10 Quotes

A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier
Related Symbols: The Sea

A thousand emotions have swept through me tonight. I don’t understand half of them… I wonder if I shall ever be stirred again as Mademoiselle Reisz’s playing moved me tonight. I wonder if any night on earth will again be like this one. It is like a night in a dream. The people about me are like some uncanny, half-human beings.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier (speaker), Mademoiselle Reisz
Chapter 12 Quotes

She was blindly following whatever impulse moved her, as if she had placed herself in alien hands for direction, and freed her soul from responsibility.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier
Chapter 17 Quotes

Once she stopped, and taking off her wedding ring, flung it upon the carpet. When she saw it lying there, she stamped her heel upon it, striving to crush it. But the small boot heel did not make an indenture, not a mark upon the little glittering circlet.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier
Chapter 18 Quotes

She felt no interest in anything about her. The street, the children, the fruit vender, the flowers growing there under her eyes, were all part and parcel of an alien world which had suddenly become antagonistic.

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
Chapter 19 Quotes

He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier, Léonce Pontellier

There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why —when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation. She could not work on such a day.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier
Chapter 22 Quotes

She won’t go to the marriage. She says a wedding is one of the most lamentable spectacles on earth.

Related Characters: Léonce Pontellier (speaker), Edna Pontellier
Chapter 23 Quotes

He observed his hostess attentively from under his shaggy brows, and noted a subtle change which had transformed her from the listless woman he had known into a being who, for the moment, seemed palpitant with the forces of life. Her speech was warm and energetic. There was no repression in her glance or gesture. She reminded him of some beautiful, sleek animal waking up in the sun.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier, Doctor Mandelet
Chapter 27 Quotes

“One of these days,” she said, “I’m going to pull myself together for a while and think—try to determine what character of a woman I am; for, candidly, I don’t know. By all the codes which I am acquainted with, I m a devilishly wicked specimen of the sex. But some way I can’t convince myself that I am.”

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier (speaker)

It was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch that kindled desire.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier, Alcée Arobin
Chapter 30 Quotes

But as she sat there amid her guests, she felt the old ennui overtake her; the hopelessness which so often assailed her, which came upon her like an obsession, like something extraneous, independent of volition. … There came over her the acute longing which always summoned into her spiritual vision the presence of the beloved one.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier
Chapter 32 Quotes

There was with her a feeling of having descended in the social scale, with a corresponding sense of having risen in the spiritual. Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual. She began to look with her own eye: to see and apprehend the deeper undercurrents of life.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier
Chapter 35 Quotes

She answered her husband with friendly evasiveness, - not with any fixed design to mislead him, only because all sense of reality had gone out of her life; she had abandoned herself to Fate, and awaited the consequences with indifference.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier, Léonce Pontellier
Chapter 36 Quotes

I always feel so sorry for women who don’t like to walk; they miss so much—so many rare little glimpses of life; and we women learn so little of life on the whole.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier (speaker)

You have been a very, very foolish boy, wasting your time dreaming of impossible things when you speak of Mr. Pontellier setting me free! I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. If he were to say, ‘Here, Robert, take her and be happy; she is yours,’ I should laugh at you both.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier (speaker), Robert Lebrun, Léonce Pontellier

It was you who awoke me last summer out of a life-long, stupid dream.

Related Characters: Edna Pontellier (speaker), Robert Lebrun
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
Chapter 38 Quotes

The trouble is… that youth is given up to illusions. It seems to be a provision of Nature; a decoy to secure mothers for the race. And Nature takes no account of moral consequences, of arbitrary conditions which we create, and which we feel obliged to maintain at any cost.

Related Characters: Doctor Mandelet (speaker), Edna Pontellier
Chapter 39 Quotes

There was no one thing in the world that she desired. There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone. The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her; who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul’s slavery for the rest of her days. But she knew a way to elude them.

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Edna Pontellier Character Timeline in The Awakening

The timeline below shows where the character Edna Pontellier appears in The Awakening. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...perhaps to eat dinner. He invites Robert, but the young man declines in favor of Mrs. Pontellier ’s company. (full context)
Chapter 2
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We learn that Mrs. Pontellier has yellow-brown hair and eyes, which are inward-looking and contemplative. She is lovely and reserved,... (full context)
Chapter 3
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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... (full context)
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By now, Mrs. Pontellier is awake. She cries a little and goes out onto the porch. Suddenly she begins... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...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, and motherly, with small delicate... (full context)
Chapter 5
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As Madame Ratignolle sews, Robert and Mrs. Pontellier chat intimately. Robert has been spending a great deal of time with Mrs. Pontellier this... (full context)
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Robert compliments her drawing, but Mrs. Pontellier does not think much of it. He tries to lay his head on her arm,... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Edna Pontellier wonders why she followed Robert to the beach, though she had not wanted to... (full context)
Chapter 7
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We learn from the narrator that Mrs. Pontellier has always been very private, and has always been aware of the distinction between the... (full context)
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...the widow counting her beads and two lovers talking in blissful ignorance of their surroundings. Edna remembers walking as a child through a meadow in Kentucky, which seemed endless; she still... (full context)
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Edna remembers that she had never had any affectionate friendships; she and her sister often fought,... (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 too seriously. Robert brushes her off. They... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...play—the music often creates images in her mind. This time, Mademoiselle Reisz plays a piece Edna calls “Solitude.” Edna responds to the music not with images but with powerful feelings, and... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...convinces the party to go to the beach. The women walk with their husbands, and Edna wonders why Robert doesn’t join her; he hasn’t been spending as much time with her... (full context)
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Robert joins her; Edna describes her overwhelming response to the music and her estrangement from the people around her.... (full context)
Chapter 11
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When he returns from the beach, Pontellier comes to ask his wife to come inside. Edna insists on staying in the hammock, though she usually obeys him in similar situations. He... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Edna sleeps very badly; early that morning, when others are sleeping or in church, she sends... (full context)
Chapter 13
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Edna grows very tired and weak during the service, so she and Robert leave the church... (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... (full context)
Chapter 15
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One evening, Edna comes into the dining room to find a noisy discussion: the vacationers are talking about... (full context)
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Edna quickly finishes her dinner and returns to her cottage. She tidies and fusses, changes into... (full context)
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Later still, Robert comes to tell Edna goodbye. Edna talks to him with irritation; he stammers and promises to write her. She... (full context)
Chapter 16
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As she walks to the beach one morning with Mademoiselle Reisz, Edna reflects on her response to Robert’s sudden departure. She thinks of him all the time,... (full context)
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Edna remembers telling Madame Ratignolle in a casual conversation that she would never sacrifice herself for... (full context)
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She talks to Mademoiselle Reisz about Robert on their way to the beach. Edna says that Madame Lebrun must miss her son, but Mlle Reisz answers that she cares... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...home, where Mrs. Pontellier usually receives callers on Tuesday. One Tuesday, however, Pontellier notices that Edna is not wearing her usual Tuesday dress, but an ordinary housedress; she informs her husband... (full context)
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Another night, Edna might have gone in and reproached the cook; tonight, she simply finishes the meal and... (full context)
Chapter 18
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The next morning, Pontellier asks Edna to help him pick out some new fixtures for the house, but she declines. She... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 19
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As time passes, Edna feels less and less frustration; she stops taking care of the household and does whatever... (full context)
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As Edna paints, she often thinks of the summer, and she feels something like desire. Some days... (full context)
Chapter 20
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On one of her dark days, Edna decides to go see Mademoiselle Reisz; to find out her address, she visits Madame Lebrun.... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...cramped, untidy attic apartment crowded by a beautiful piano. She is very pleased to see Edna; she did not think Edna would accept her invitation. When Edna learns that Mlle Reisz... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...Mandelet, an old friend who is known for his wisdom. He tells the doctor that Edna has been unwell: she has been acting strangely and ignoring her housewifely duties—she had mentioned... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Edna’s father, referred to as the Colonel, comes to New Orleans to buy a wedding present... (full context)
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When Doctor Mandelet pays them a visit, he finds Edna in a very good mood: she seems free and easy. The Pontelliers, the Colonel, and... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Edna and her father quarrel when Edna refuses to attend her sister’s wedding, and she is... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Chapter 25
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When it is sunny, Edna enjoys working on her painting, which is becoming more confident. On dark days she visits... (full context)
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Edna knows a great deal about horse racing from her father, so her first time at... (full context)
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...at her house. They talk frankly, and the evening rises to a romantic pitch. When Edna impulsively touches a scar on Arobin’s hand, she becomes uncomfortable and tries to cut the... (full context)
Chapter 26
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Arobin sends her a romantic letter of apology; to downplay its significance, Edna answers as though nothing much had happened between them, and invites him to come look... (full context)
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For peace of mind, Edna often goes to visit Mademoiselle Reisz. One afternoon, Edna tells her friend that she wants... (full context)
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As usual, Edna reads the most recent letter from Robert while Mademoiselle Reisz plays piano. Robert does not... (full context)
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Edna is very happy for the rest of the day. She sends candy to her children... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...bird needing strong wings; Arobin has heard only unpleasant things about the pianist, and wishes Edna would pay attention to him instead. They kiss on the lips for the first time. (full context)
Chapter 28
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Edna cries when Arobin leaves. She feels assailed by her husband in the form of the... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Edna rushes to arrange her move into the smaller house. She moves all her things and... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Out of the eleven invited, nine attend Edna’s party: Arobin, Mademoiselle Reisz, Mrs. Highcamp, Monsieur Ratignolle, Victor Lebrun, and two couples—Mr. and Mrs.... (full context)
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...books eagerly with Gouvernail, who is not very forthcoming. Mrs. Highcamp is fascinated by Victor. Edna is glamorous and queenly, but a familiar vague despair overcomes her for no reason she... (full context)
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...suddenly looks very lovely and statuesque. He begins to sing a French love song to Edna; when she claps her hand over his mouth, he kisses it passionately. Soon, all the... (full context)
Chapter 31
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When they are alone, Edna tells Arobin that she is ready to leave for her new home. She lets him... (full context)
Chapter 32
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Pontellier writes Edna to say that he does not approve of her relocation—he is worried about what his... (full context)
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Soon after the move, Edna goes to visit the children, who are staying in the countryside with Pontellier’s mother. She... (full context)
Chapter 33
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Mademoiselle Reisz is not home one afternoon when Edna comes to visit her, so Edna lets herself in to wait in the living room.... (full context)
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While Edna waits for Mademoiselle Reisz, she plays a song on the piano. Suddenly, Robert comes in.... (full context)
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Robert walks Edna home. He refuses her invitation to dinner, but decides to stay when he sees her... (full context)
Chapter 34
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Edna and Robert talk pleasantly over dinner. Edna asks jealously about an embroidered tobacco pouch Robert... (full context)
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Edna decides not to go to Mrs. Merriman’s card game, and Arobin agrees to mail her... (full context)
Chapter 35
Edna feels a renewed cheerfulness the next morning, and thinks with pleasure of her future friendship... (full context)
Chapter 36
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Edna likes to visit a tiny, little-known café on the edge of town for good coffee... (full context)
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Robert walks Edna home. They come in without a word. Edna leaves for a moment; when she comes... (full context)
Chapter 37
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Edna goes to see Madame Ratignolle, who, it turns out, is about to give birth; she... (full context)
Chapter 38
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Afterwards, Doctor Mandelet walks Edna home. He regrets that she had to be present for the birth, and asks if... (full context)
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...does find a note from him: it says that he left because he loves her. Edna sits up all night, numb and sleepless. (full context)
Chapter 39
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Victor is repairing one of the houses at Grand Isle and telling Mariequita about Edna’s glamorous party. She becomes jealous of Edna, and tells Robert haughtily that she could have... (full context)
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After Robert left that night, Edna sat up thinking about her indifference for the people around her; even Robert, whom she... (full context)
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Edna takes off her bathing suit and stands naked in the open for the first time.... (full context)