Professor D. Hall
May 6th 2009
Critique of “The Awakening” (Chapters 29-39)
In chapter 29, Edna decides to move out of her house without carefully considering her actions and fails to even consult her husband. She acts on impulse, knowing that she cannot continue an affair while still living in her husband's house. She moves to the “pigeon house” where she thinks that she has the command of her own, and she is an independent women. She feverishly packs, like "one who has entered . . . some forbidden temple in which a thousand muffled voices bade her begone." This is symbolic of how she has disregarded her marriage with her first husband. The “forbidden temple” symbolizes of the church and the catholic rituals, which Edna has completely disregarded by leaving Leonce. The “thousand voices” she heard symbolizes of the voice of disapproval of the society and culture where a women does not have the right to be such independent as she was. Further in the chapter Edna showed a lack of emotions for Arobin as she avoids being with him alone in the room, but she clearly does not regret the physical contact with him and insists him to wait until next day’s dinner party. The chapter showed her moving from a “parrot” to a pigeon house and declaring her independence.
The next chapter (chapter 30) started with a dinner party and some guests coming to the party. Edna starts her party in a “regal” manner declaring her independence in some sought of way. Her actions can be contrasted with Madame Ratignolle as having "the grace and majesty which queens . . . possess." She has actually powered herself as a fully independent lady with all the strength and progress to discover herself. Later in the party she feels bored and sad thinking of her emotional bond with Robert. Thereafter when Victor poses for the gathering; he creates a different kind of picture, he sings a song identical to what Robert has sung for Edna "Ah! si tu savais!" and then Edna responds violently to him as she had become possessive for Robert and that song reminded her of Robert going away from her to Mexico. The symbol "Painted with red blood on a ground of gold" tells her emotions for Robert and her violence created by her in the grand party she had that night. Her desires for Robert made her do that and soon after the actions done by Edna the party is over.
However, in the next chapter (chapter 31) Arobin is the only one left in the party and Edna and Arobin walk to the “Pigeon House” together. She admits to Arobin that she is feeling tired and unhappy, and overextended by throwing the dinner party on her own. Arobin use this situation where Edna needs an understanding friend to accelerate her desire for a man in her life. He gives her the care she needs after Robert left to Mexico and “awakens” her sexual desire. Even though, she loves Robert she had actually found a caring person (Arobin) who can understand her, and becomes comfortable with Arobin. They become the first mates in the “Pigeon House” that night.
In Chapter 32, Edna receives a letter from Leonce concerning her move. Leonce, true to his character, gives importance to his business without caring about the feelings of Edna. He says,” "to consider first, foremost, and above all else, what people would say." He never cares for her and takes it for granted that his wife is his possession. He doesn’t even know that Edna had made her own “pigeon house” and had left him. Later in the chapter she chooses this point in time to spend a week with her children at their grandmother's. She had told Madame Ratignolle in Chapter 16 that "I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself." She was overjoyed with her stay with her children.
The chapter (chapter 33) begins with Edna visiting Mademoiselle Reisz apartment to talk about Robert, but she finds that Reisz is not at home. Afterwards, Madame Ratignolle visits Edna in the “pigeon house” and warns her of gossip concerning her relationship with Arobin. She tells Edna that her actions are simply not acceptable by the society and she is acting as a “small child”. Later in the chapter, Edna waits for Mademoiselle Reisz's in her apartment when Robert appears; he has come back from Mexico. They are shocked to see each other, and Edna was hurt that he had arrived a day earlier in city and has not even contacted her once. Further, Robert walks Edna home, and is shocked to find a photograph of Arobin among her sketches. Edna on the other hand asks Robert of his experience in Mexico. His answer was that nothing but his summer on Grande Isle and felt like a “lost soul” holds some indication for her that she was on his mind. When she responds to his question about her thoughts he says she is “cruel”, then silence hits upon at that time.
In Chapter 34, starts with Edna and Robert having dinner and there after she asks Robert about the tobacco pouch. When Robert tells her about the girl who gave him that pouch Edna becomes jealous of the girl with whom Robert met in Mexico. Then Robert tries to dropdown the situation by telling Edna their visit at the Grand Isle but Edna would not let him do so which is quiet ironic that she had been sleeping with Arobin. At the end of the chapter, she is consumed with jealousy. The meeting of Edna and Robert in the chapter states that both of them did not regain their earlier level of intimacy. Afterwards the meeting Edna and Arobin continued with their relationship, but their relationship did not reflected the reality as Edna was more attracted to Robert. Chapter 35 shows Edna the next morning full of hope, feeling that she and Robert can overcome any obstacles to their love. When Robert does not visit her that day, however, she despairs, a pattern that repeats itself for days as he continues to stay away from her. Yet she avoids places where she might see him, to avoid disappointment. Her affair with Arobin continues.
At the beginning of the chapter (chapter 36), Edna is jealous that Robert is not spending enough time with her, and she tries to get him to express his feelings towards her. He refuses to do so, however, because he realizes that it will not do any good‹that she will still be married and he will still want to do the honorable thing. Edna seems to have taken on the role of pursuer in this relationship: she knows what she wants, and she is trying to get Robert to admit his love for her. She is reversing the traditional male-female roles and refusing to play coy, which is why she admits that her behavior may be considered "unwomanly." In addition, it is Edna who initiates physical contact with Robert. Whereas earlier she simply grabbed Arobin's wrist, here she kisses Robert. She breaks all taboos and trying to have not just one, but two, extramarital affairs. It is significant to note that Edna declares herself to be the possession of no one. She is not simply property that Leonce can give to Robert. When she asserts that "I give myself where I choose," she is alluding to the fact that she has already given herself to Arobin. She totally denies the traditions of the marriage at that time.
In the next chapter (chapter 37) Edna visits Madame Ratignolle at the time of her delivery and pain. In this chapter Madame Ratignolle plays an important role by reminding Edna of her pain when she had children. Edna on the other hand denies the pain and thinks that god have cursed the womankind with childbirth. Then later in the chapter after Madame Ratignolle had overcome the intensive pain she remind Edna about her children and awakens her feelings for her children by saying, "Think of the children, Edna . . . Remember them!". This statement made by Madame Ratignolle made her think of her children and creates feelings and emotions in Edna for her children. Ironically, Madame Ratignolle reminded Edna of motherly character which she was lacking of throughout the story. However, in the next chapter after she realizes of the meaning of motherhood Dr. Mandeletwalks Edna home and in between she talks with doctor about her feelings about the words stated by Madame Ratignolle. She now totally understands the meaning of Awakened and finds herself in the vacuum where she has been totally ignoring all her responsibilities. She realizes that she was the one that misinterpreted the meaning of traditions and her life. When the doctor twice addresses Edna as a “child” it means that she is the woman that has awakened from a dream of her unsatisfying marriage and overall lack of interest of life demanded by Leonce demanded from her. Later in the chapter Robert does not wait for her as he is not the “awakened” one as Edna because he knows that their actions would have negative consequences. While Edna is willing to lose everything, Robert does not want to do the same. He is not the kind of man who would like to fight against the culture and the society as he is more afraid than willing to live with Edna.
The last chapter starts with Edna coming to Victor at the Grand Isle as he is doing some repairs with his pension money. She tells him that she would like to rest and then later asks him going to swimming. In reality, she plans to drown herself; she realizes the meaning of the “bird” as a mother taking care her children with her wings in the limits of the society. She sees a bird with broken wings drowning into water and this reflected her as women who can fight against the society but has never understood the correct meaning of “awakened”. By drowning herself she actually takes control over the situation where is a mother whose actions are simply not acceptable by the society and left her children away from that Trauma. In a true sense she has really awakened from a dream and understood the meaning and role of a woman in the society.