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The protagonist of the novel, Edna embarks on a path of emotional, intellectual, and sexual awakening after spending a very pleasant summer with her young admirer, Robert Lebrun. In trying to gain a sense of herself as a complete, autonomous human being, she flouts convention by moving out of her husband's house, having an adulterous affair, and becoming an artist. Edna feels her place in the universe is to express herself frankly and without hesitation. As Edna’s ability to express herself grows, she becomes more estranged from the people in her life. They simply cannot reconcile the new Edna with normal conventions of society.