The Awakening

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Léonce Pontellier Character Analysis

Edna’s husband, a pragmatic, sociable businessman who takes great care to keep up appearances. He expects his wife to perform her social and motherly obligations in the conventional ways, and he is quick to chastise her for any perceived oversights. He loves Edna, in his way, but he is deaf and blind to her turbulent inner life. He can’t understand her personal transformation, or the unconventional lifestyle that results from it.

Léonce Pontellier Quotes in The Awakening

The The Awakening quotes below are all either spoken by Léonce Pontellier or refer to Léonce 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
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Awakening published in 1993.
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
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Having just returned from a morning at the beach, Edna is met by her husband, who complains that she has let herself get sunburnt. Léonce is not worried about any physical discomfort on Edna's part; rather, he views her as a piece of "property" which he wishes to keep safe and undamaged. Rather than viewing his wife as a person with an independent mind and will, he instead sees her as nothing more than an object. 

From its very beginning, then, The Awakening makes it clear how tethered and claustrophobic Edna's life is. She cannot even spend time out in the sun without being chastised and scolded by her husband. Rather than caring about her inner life, Edna's partner is only concerned with her outward appearance, showing that she is not expected to have desires, values, or beliefs of her own. 

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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
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Reflecting on the sudden change in his wife's behavior, Léonce Pontellier concludes that she is "not herself." The narrator reveals, however, what Edna's husband does not understand. By casting off her masks of dutiful wife and mother, Edna is in fact "becoming herself." The narrator describes the process, relating that the main character is removing the "fictitious self" with which all people represent themselves "before the world." 

By wittily turning a common phrase—"not herself"—on its head, the narrator makes a crucial point. Although Edna's behavior may seem strange and off-putting to those who know her, she is actually (for the first time) being true to her own desires, and uniting her inner with her outer self. 

From here, the narrator broadens out. This type of automatic deception is not unique to Edna. Rather, all people clothe themselves in a "fictitious self" when they go out into the world. What makes Edna unique, rather, is that she is doing away with the dishonest mask that most people wear unconsciously. 

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
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

Confused by his wife's new rebellious behavior, Léonce Pontellier consults a doctor. When the other man suggests that he send Edna up to her sister's wedding to be among her own family, Léonce replies that she will not go, as she thinks that weddings are "the most lamentable spectacles on earth."

After years of trying to be a dutiful wife and mother, Edna has hurtled headlong in the other direction. She is now convinced that marriage is an evil institution, because it requires women to give up themselves for their husbands. She pities women such as Adèle and her sister, who are still satisfied with the institution of marriage, because she believes that they simply do not see the terrible truth that she does.

Even as Edna articulates these strong negative feelings towards marriage and men, it is shocking how her husband and the doctor treat her pronouncements. Believing her to be a silly, unstable woman, they do not try to understand why Edna is upset, or what she means. Instead, they simply believe her to be fickle, and reassure themselves that her strange behavior will pass with time. 

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
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

Having seen Robert, but not fully reconciled with him, Edna falls into a strange sort of apathy. When she writes a letter to her husband, she does not tell him about her life—not because she wants to "mislead him," but because the goings-on around her do not feel real. Instead, Edna has "abandoned herself to Fate." Her attitude toward her existence, now, is one of "indifference."

After her exultation and joy in her own independence, Edna has now found its dark side: purposelessness. She has no place in society, and does not know whether the man she loves will return her affections. With no experience exerting her own autonomy or pursuing her own desires, Edna does not know how to continue. She has cut herself off from all external expectations, but in so doing, she has removed any sense of connection or meaning from her life. 

Chapter 36 Quotes

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
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

Having finally kissed Edna, Robert explains that he stayed away from her up until now because she was married, and belonged to another man. Edna, however, scoffs at this sentiment. She explains that she is "no longer one of Mr. Pontellier's possessions," and that she may give herself to Robert if she chooses.

This statement truly exemplifies how far Edna has come from the beginning of the book. As the narrative started, Edna quietly accepted the way that her husband treated her like an object. Now, however, she is even laughing at the man she loves, so absurd is the idea of her belonging to her husband.

Even as readers witness how confident Edna is in her autonomy and her freedom, we also begin to sense that Robert might not be as enlightened as our main character. He still thinks of Edna as bound to another man, and does not seem to understand that she now considers herself entirely her own person, responsible to neither her husband nor her children. 

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Léonce Pontellier Character Timeline in The Awakening

The timeline below shows where the character Léonce Pontellier appears in The Awakening. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
As the book begins, Mr. Pontellier is reading a day-old newspaper next to a group of summer cottages at Grand Isle,... (full context)
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
As he smokes a cigar, Pontellier watches his wife and Robert Lebrun walking towards him from the beach. When they reach... (full context)
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Pontellier decides to go to Klein’s, a nearby hotel, to play billiards and perhaps to eat... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Pontellier comes home late at night and wakes Mrs. Pontellier to tell her about his night.... (full context)
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Action and Reflection Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
By now, Mrs. Pontellier is awake. She cries a little and goes out onto the porch. Suddenly she begins... (full context)
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Action and Reflection Theme Icon
Pontellier eagerly sets out for a week of work in the city the next morning. He... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
Pontellier considers his reasons for criticizing his wife’s choices as a mother. The children are independent... (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. Pontellier takes up some sewing as well, though... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
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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,... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...Raoul from Madame Ratignolle, who had been watching them, and helps Etienne get to sleep. Pontellier had been a little worried about Edna’s absence, but eventually he went to the Klein... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Action and Reflection Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
Back home in New Orleans, the Pontelliers live in a very expensive and refined home, where Mrs. Pontellier usually receives callers on... (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... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Action and Reflection Theme Icon
One day, Pontellier goes to visit Doctor Mandelet, an old friend who is known for his wisdom. He... (full context)
Chapter 24
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
As Pontellier prepares to leave for his prolonged business trip, Edna becomes affectionate and solicitous. But his... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Action and Reflection Theme Icon
...old house in two days’ time: it will be very glamorous, and Edna will use Pontellier’s accounts to pay for it. After the party, she will move to the new house... (full context)
Chapter 32
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Action and Reflection Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
Pontellier writes Edna to say that he does not approve of her relocation—he is worried about... (full context)
Convention and Individuality Theme Icon
Women’s Rights, Femininity, and Motherhood Theme Icon
Freedom and Emptiness Theme Icon
...the move, Edna goes to visit the children, who are staying in the countryside with Pontellier’s mother. She has a lovely time, and is sad to leave them—but when she returns... (full context)