The Awakening
Kate Chopin
Contributed by Loretta Ingwersen
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Character Analysis
Mrs. Edna Pontellier

Edna Pontellier is the principle character in the book who awakens to a new life as she discovers her independence. She is the young wife of Leonce Pontellier and the mother of the two young boys, Raoul and Etienne. During the summer months spent at Grande Isle, Edna learns how to swim, befriends Madame Adele Ratignolle, and falls madly (and secretly) in love with Robert Lebrun. During the remainder of the novel, she lives in New Orleans, spends time with pianist Mademoiselle Reisz, has an affair with Alcee Arobin, moves into her own pigeon-house, abandons her old life, and declares her love for Robert. When he leaves her at the end of the novel, Edna walks naked into the ocean, leaving the readership to wonder whether she has intentionally or unintentionally drowned.

Mr. Leonce Pontellier

Leonce Pontellier is Edna’s wealthy, old-fashioned husband. Although he occasionally shows his love through material gifts, he more than often shows his frustration through anger. He finds Edna to be irresponsible, and elicits help from Dr. Mandelet as to her moody disposition. He travels to New York on business for a large portion of the novel, during which Edna moves out of the large house on Esplanade Street into her pigeon-hole and falls in love with Robert Lebrun.

Robert Lebrun

Robert Lebrun is the younger, attractive, flirtatious man with whom Edna falls madly in love. He is the elder son of Madame Lebrun, has had a scandalous affair with Mariequita, the young Spanish girl, runs off to Mexico on moment’s notice, and breaks Edna’s heart. Although he does sincerely love Edna, he leaves her twice without following through on his feelings.

Adele Ratignolle

Madame Adele Ratignolle is the epitome of perfect womanhood from this era, mother of five children, and ideal wife to Alphonse Ratignolle. She becomes a close friend and confidante of Edna while at Grande Isle and watches out for her dear friend in the ways of love. She warns Robert Lebrun to stay away from Edna. Although she does not attend Edna’s farewell dinner because of illness, she cares deeply for Edna. Her final wishes to Edna are to think of her children.

Mademoiselle Reisz

Mademoiselle Reisz is the eccentric single pianist who charms Edna with her Chopin Impromptu at Grande Isle. She is a close friend of Robert Lebrun, who writes to her requesting a performance of Chopin for Edna any time she wishes. Mademoiselle embodies everything that Madame Ratignolle does not - independence, carefree attitudes about appearance, a single life with no children, and a life filled with art. Although Edna dislikes her at Grande Isle, she seeks her company and advice in New Orleans.

Alcee Arobin

Alcee Arobin is the young, charming, somewhat scandalous man who ultimately seduces Edna into his arms. He is part of the crowd in which Edna spends time in New Orleans, is a womanizer, gambler, and businessman.


Raoul is one of Edna and Leonce Pontellier’s two young sons. He becomes slightly ill towards the beginning of the novella, causing Leonce to yell at Edna for being an irresponsible mother.


Etienne is the other young son of Edna and Leonce Pontellier.

Alphonse Ratignolle

Alphonse Ratignolle is Adele Ratignolle’s devoted Creole husband. He comes to Edna’s farewell dinner representing the two and seeks Edna when his wife lays ill.


Janet is Edna’s younger sister who gets married during the course of the novella. Edna chooses not to attend the wedding, despite their father’s urgings.


Margaret is Edna’s older sister.


Mariequita is the little Spanish girl with whom Robert Lebrun had an affair before the course of the novel. She is scattered throughout the story and reminds Edna of Robert’s possible torrid past.

Madame Antoine

Madame Antoine owns an inn where Edna sleeps after her fainting spell. She speaks only French and openly welcomes Edna into her rooms.


Tonie is Madame Antoine’s son, who helps Robert with the boat.

Dr. Mandelet

Doctor Mandelet is the elderly physician who is a dear friend of Mr. Pontellier and devoted doctor to several local families. He tells Leonce that Edna’s mood will pass and that women are a moody species. He is late to the Ratignolle’s during Adele’s last moments and tells Edna that she should not be present during such a trying time.

The Colonel

The Colonel is Edna’s father who was an officer in the Confederacy during the Civil War. He enjoys the parties, singing, dancing, and drinking at the Ratignolle parties and tries to convince Edna to come to his sister’s wedding. He wonders why Edna and Leonce do not spend more time together at night.

Mrs. Highcamp

Mrs. Highcamp is a middle-aged society woman who busies herself planning her daughter’s social life. She spends time with Edna, Alcee Arobin, and Mademoiselle Reisz in the city and at the races, and also attends her farewell dinner.

Miss Mayblunt

Miss Mayblunt is a young woman, no longer in her teens, that prides herself on intellectual banter and attends Edna’s farewell dinner.

Mr. Gouvernail

Mr. Gouvernail is Miss Mayblunt’s companion at Edna’s farewell dinner.


The solitary servant that Edna retains from the large house on Esplanade Street to her new pigeon house.

Farival Twins

The Farival twins dominate the atmosphere at Grande Isle with their obnoxious singing and ubiquitous presence. They are always at the parties and are never spoken of in high regard by Edna Pontellier or Adele Ratignolle.

Madame Lebrun

Madame Lebrun is the mother of Robert and Victor, runs the cottages in Grande Isle, and is friendly with Edna in New Orleans.

Victor Lebrun

Victor is Robert’s younger brother and the treasure of Madame Lebrun. He flirts with Edna Pontellier and constantly tells her how beautiful she is. He also attends Edna’s dinner and spends time with her crowd in New Orleans.

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