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.
As Edna's husband, Leónce spends most of the time away from home on business. He is obsessed with making money and with acquiring expensive possessions for his home. Mild and gentle, he is extremely tolerant of Edna's whims and rebellions.
Raoul and Etienne Pontellier
Edna and Leónce's toddler children. Raoul and Etienne are very self-sufficient and do not like to hang on to their mother or to their quadroon nurse. When Leónce goes to New York for an extended period of time, they go to visit their grandmother in the country.
Edna's father. The Colonel fought in the Confederate army and is now a distinguished, solemn old man who likes to drink toddies during the day. Many years ago he gambled away the family farm in Kentucky, and he was domineering and severe to his wife.
A young flirt, Robert attaches himself to Edna Pontellier during the summer and unexpectedly grows quite attached to her. He tries to distance himself from her by going to Vera Cruz, and he tries to be honorable by not always reciprocating Edna's advances.
Robert's mother. Madame Lebrun owns the cottages in Grand Isle that the New Orleans city folk like to rent out for the summer.
Robert's younger brother. Madame Lebrun's favorite son, Victor is spoiled and obnoxious, but very good-looking. He likes to flirt with Mrs. Pontellier and sometimes reminds her of Robert.
Alcée Arobin is a fashionable young man and has the reputation of being a philanderer. He attaches himself to Edna, and they have an affair.
Madame Ratignolle is the epitome of motherhood and femininity, with many children, innate maternal instincts, and a voluptuous appearance. She is currently pregnant and makes her friend Edna promise to be there when she goes into labor. Madame Ratignolle is sympathetic to Edna and frequently gives her unsolicited advice.
A pianist, Mademoiselle Reisz is very eccentric, ugly, and irritable, and she lives alone. Edna frequently goes to visit her to listen to her play and to read the letters that her friend receives from Robert. Mademoiselle Reisz has an artistic temperament.
The Awakening Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Awakening is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Edna's awakening occurs in the ocean, which is personified as having a seductive voice and an enveloping embrace. Water often has a symbolic meaning in literature: the baptism of Jesus and John (as well as numerous other people) occurred in the...
When Robert tries to cuddle with Mrs. Pontellier, she considers it an annoyance and pushes him away. Her decision to do so may or may not have been the correct response, but the point of the incident is that for Mrs. Pontellier, each interaction...