“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.
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… (103 more words in this explanation)
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.
Although Edna begins the novel hampered and deadened, the narrator still implies that she has an active inner life, describing how when she observes an object, she seems "lost in some inward maze of contemplation… (105 more words in this explanation)
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.
After an evening with Robert and a scolding from her husband, Edna escapes out onto the porch. Feeling restless without knowing why, she feels "oppression" and "anguish," although she cannot identify the cause. This moment… (120 more words in this explanation)
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.
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… (129 more words in this explanation)
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.
As Edna marvels at her own contradictory impulses, the narrator describes what is happening within her: she is beginning to understand what it means to be a "human being," and to understand how she must… (133 more words in this explanation)
At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions.
The narrator turns to Edna's childhood, describing how, from "a very early period," she had understood the difference between inner and outer life. Encouraged by society and family to transform herself into the perfect woman… (128 more words in this explanation)
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.
Turning to Edna's girlhood, the narrator describes a series of infatuations, including one with a famous actor. While still passionately in love with this "tragedian," Edna met her current husband, who flattered her with his… (153 more words in this explanation)
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.
For her entire summer on the island, Edna has been attempting to learn to swim, and to conquer her fear of the ocean. At last, she succeeds—and as she does so, she suddenly feels "exultation."… (137 more words in this explanation)
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.
Having been deeply moved by Mademoiselle Reisz's piano playing, and then having swum in the ocean by herself for the first time, Edna attempts to explain her emotions to Robert. She is confused, unable to… (110 more words in this explanation)
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.
Having tasted freedom for the first time, Edna now begins to experiment with the sensation. Rather than acting in a responsible and rational manner, she now chooses the reverse, "blindly following" her own impulses and… (114 more words in this explanation)
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.
Having fought with her husband about the quality of their dinner and her skill as a housekeeper, Edna grows deeply upset. She feels suffocated by their married life together in New Orleans, yet is unable… (171 more words in this explanation)
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 day after her tantrum, Edna awakes with a strange discontent and apathy. She is unable to take "interest in anything about her," finding everything that she surveys to be displeasing and "antagonistic."
As she… (126 more words in this explanation)
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.
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… (111 more words in this explanation)
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.
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… (131 more words in this explanation)
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.
As Edna begins to free herself from the restraints of her life as a wife and mother, her emotions remain in turmoil. Although she neglects the household, choosing instead to paint, she does not always… (138 more words in this explanation)
She won’t go to the marriage. She says a wedding is one of the most lamentable spectacles on earth.
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… (152 more words in this explanation)
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.
The doctor who is Léonte's confidante pays a visit to the Pontelliers, and is shocked by the transformation of Edna. While he remembers her as "listless," he now finds her "energetic" and full of life… (109 more words in this explanation)
“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 am a devilishly wicked specimen of the sex. But some way I can’t convince myself that I am.”
Speaking to Alcée Arobin, who will soon become her lover, Edna wonders aloud whether she is a good woman or a bad woman. She reflects that, based on the "codes" of society, she is "devilishly… (136 more words in this explanation)
It was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch that kindled desire.
After a long period of flirtation, Edna and Alcée Arobin, an infamous seducer of married women, finally kiss. As they do so, the narrator relates that it was "the first kiss" of Edna's life "to… (123 more words in this explanation)
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.
In order to celebrate moving out of her husband's house, Edna throws herself a glamorous party for her twenty-ninth birthday. Yet though she plays the glamorous and charming hostess, Edna is unhappy. She feels "hopelessness"… (127 more words in this explanation)
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.
The narrator relates Edna's feelings about her new house, which is much smaller and less grand than her husband's dwelling. Edna delights in this descent "in the social scale," believing that it will correspond with… (125 more words in this explanation)
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.
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… (110 more words in this explanation)
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.
Attempting to make innocent conversation with Robert, Edna observes that she pities "women who don't like to walk," because it is one of the few ways that women can learn about life. After all, she… (86 more words in this explanation)
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.
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… (133 more words in this explanation)
It was you who awoke me last summer out of a life-long, stupid dream.
Edna attempts to explain her awakening to Robert, stating that spending time with him made her understand that her life until then had been a "stupid dream." Loving Robert, she implies, was the first desire… (112 more words in this explanation)
With an inward agony, with a flaming, outspoken revolt against the ways of Nature, she witnessed the scene of torture.
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"… (111 more words in this explanation)
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.
Despairing and alone, abandoned by Robert and unwilling to return to her family, Edna swims out to sea, where she will soon die. As she comes to her decision, she thinks about Robert—her final link… (184 more words in this explanation)