The Awakening


Kate Chopin

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The Awakening: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Edna likes to visit a tiny, little-known café on the edge of town for good coffee and seclusion. Though she does not usually run into friends there, she looks up from her book one afternoon to see Robert. He seems uncomfortable, but she invites him to share her dinner. Edna presses him to explain why he has not come to see her, despite his evasions; he is almost desperate to avoid any intimate topics. Instead, they talk about the delicious coffee.
Though she still allows Arobin to see her, Edna tries to isolate herself from unwelcome company. Her friends neither fill nor distract from her emptiness. When Edna tries to talk to Robert openly, he rebuffs her with politeness. Like Pontellier, he wants to keep up appearances.
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Robert walks Edna home. They come in without a word. Edna leaves for a moment; when she comes back into the living room, she kisses him. He puts his arms around her and admits that he has stayed away because he loves her and cannot have her. He dreamed of marrying her, but blamed himself for it. She laughs at him and tells him 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 loves him and begs him to wait for her.
Edna’s kiss tips Robert again into sincerity and openness. He admits that he has been distant and formal with Edna because he cannot marry her: since he can’t be with Edna in a socially acceptable way, he chooses not to be with her at all. When Edna tells him she does not belong to anybody, she means her soul is her own. But Robert still sees social convention. It is ironic that Edna's efforts to free Robert from social convention in order to be with her are interrupted by the social convention and female obligation she has been trying to escape: she must attend to her friend (whom she doesn't even really like) who is giving birth.
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