The Awakening
Kate Chopin
Contributed by Loretta Ingwersen
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Chapter 8-10

Adele Ratignolle speaks earnestly with Robert Lebrun, asking him to leave Edna Pontellier alone. He does not understand. She tells him that Edna is not one of them - a flirtatious socialite - and may take his advances seriously. Robert gleefully teases her, bringing up the possibility that he may, in fact, be serious in his attempts. Adele relates several stories of willful, elicit love affairs that should not have been, including the letter-writing tale of Alcee Arobin. Robert playfully ignores her warning and offers to make her a cup of Bouillon.

Robert walks to his mother’s cottage and sees a little black girl working on a sewing machine near his mother. He inquires as to Mrs. Pontellier’s whereabouts and discovers that she is on the beach with her children. Madame Lebrun informs him that his younger brother, Victor, is going to the rockaway, and that Montel, will be in Vera Cruz during the next month. Montel is a middle-aged man with whom Madame Lebrun has spent time since her husband’s passing. They continue to speak over the noise of the sewing machine, as Robert persistently presses his mother for information regarding Edna Pontellier.

Several weeks after Adele and Robert’s conversation about Edna, Grand Isle is host to a large celebration, in which families dance together, eat ice cream and cake, and the children perform musical numbers. The Farival twins play piano, while others sing and dance. Edna dances with her husband, Robert, and Alphonse Ratignolle, Adele’ tall, svelte Creole husband.

Robert asks Edna if she would like to hear Mademoiselle Reisz play the piano. He tells her that she is fond of her, and brings her into the room. Mademoiselle Reisz is a homely middle-aged woman, an artist, who claims that Edna is the only person in that room worth hearing her music. Edna is fond of music and recalls listening to Adele practice a piece that Edna called "Solitude," for the music elicited a feeling for Edna of a naked man standing besides rocks on the seashore. When Mademoiselle Reisz begins to play chords on the piano, Edna is stunned.

"The very first chords which Mademoiselle Reisz struck upon the piano sent a keen tremor down Mrs. Pontellier’s spinal column. It was not the first time she had heard an artist at the piano. Perhaps it was the first time she was ready, perhaps the first time her being was tempered to take an impress of the abiding truth...She saw no pictures of solitude, of hope, of longing, or of despair. But the very passions themselves were aroused within her soul, swaying it, lashing it, as the waves daily beat upon her splendid body. She trembled, she was choking, and the tears blinded her." Chapter 9, pg. 33-34

After the performance, Mademoiselle Reisz comes up to Edna to ask her opinion of the performance. The music had aroused not only Edna, but the entire crowd.

As the crowd dies down, Robert contemplates a bath in the sea at such a mystic, moonlit hour. Robert would always suggest a walk on the beach, and nobody would ever disagree. He would tail behind the Ratignolle’s and Pontellier’s with unclear intentions. Edna desired to swim and undertakes lessons during the summer. "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" Chapter 10, pg. 36. Edna continues to learn how to swim and ventures out into the sea, while her husband and friends look on. When she returns, she expresses her fear of swimming out too far that she cannot return. Leonce claims that he is watching, so she will not get lost in the waves. Everyone takes pride in Edna’s new skill as she returns to the bathhouse to change into dry clothes.

Robert walks Edna back to her cottage. They exchange words and hold each other in comfort. She waits in the hammock for Mr. Pontellier to return while Robert gets her a pillow and shawl. He waits with her for her husband and smokes a cigarette. The two sit in silence, as their desire for one another increases with each moment. Robert says goodnight and Edna watches his figure move in and out of the moonlight.

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