The Awakening

The Awakening Summary and Analysis of Chapters 31-33

Chapter XXXI:


Only Arobin remains behind after the party disperses, and he helps her lock up the house. Together they leave Esplanade Street and walk to the "pigeon house" arm in arm. Edna seems sad and doesn't feel like speaking much. They enter the small house, which has a front porch opening directly into the pantry. Edna has already decorated a little bit, so the house looks comfortable and inviting. In addition, Arobin has surprised her by ordering the pantry filled with flowers.

Edna admits that she feels tired and unhappy and that she has overextended herself in throwing the dinner party by herself. Caressing her head and neck, Arobin tells her that he will let her rest; however, he does not leave and begins to gently kiss her neck. He tells Edna, who is slightly uneasy, that he will leave after he says good night, but only after they sleep together does he do so.

Chapter XXXII:


Mr. Pontellier is displeased when he finds out about his wife's recent decisions, and he writes her a heated letter scolding her for being foolish and irresponsible. He reminds her that she must not neglect her social obligations and that people might think she moved out of the big house because of financial reasons. Primarily concerned with his business prospects, Mr. Pontellier also writes a letter to a local architect and contracts a number of expensive renovations to the house. Soon, the house is under construction and clearly uninhabitable. Finally, he sends a notice to the local newspaper indicating that the Pontelliers will be going on summer holiday and that their house is currently subject to "sumptuous alterations."

Edna takes little notice of her husband's actions and feels content and happy in her new home. She enjoys the feeling of having descended from the social elite and experiences an increased sense of freedom and clairvoyance. In a few days, she goes to visit her children in Iberville and spends a week there playing with them and looking at everything they have to show her. She nearly weeps with joy when she sees them, and their youthful energy and curiosity completely fulfills her for that one week. When she has to leave, she feels pangs of sadness that accompany her all the way back to New Orleans. However, by the time she enters the "pigeon house," she is once more celebrating the solitude and quiet of her life there.


Characteristically, Mr. Pontellier seems to care more about his business prospects than his wife. Rather than discussing with Edna her reasons for leaving their home, he contacts the architect and the local newspaper. However, it may be that such a response is entirely justified. The narrator notes that Mr. Pontellier did not even consider it a possibility that his wife's departure would be a reason for scandal. Apparently, it does not even enter his mind that his wife may want to leave him or that she may have become interested in other men during his absence. He takes it for granted that his wife will always be his wife and that she will always remain faithful to him, and so he cannot even conceive of people gossiping about them or their marriage. Since he assumes that his wife would never even think of leaving him, perhaps it would be logical for him to worry first about his business prospects.

By moving into the pigeon house and thereby descending the social scale, Edna can continue to define herself without regard to social norms and expectations. Moving into the smaller house was an enormous step of originality and independence. Having already led people to expect "radical" behavior from her, there are no longer as many barriers to prevent her from asserting her individuality.

Just as she devotes all her attention to her father when he comes to visit, so does she focus all her energy on her children because she finds them temporarily amusing. She thoroughly enjoys them because she can experience them simply as children, and not specifically as her children that she has to constantly take care of. They entertain her when she visits them, and when she leaves, she is glad that she can again be free of the responsibility of being their mother.

Chapter XXXIII:


This chapter begins with Edna visiting Mademoiselle Reisz' apartment to talk about Robert, but it soon flashes back to the events of that afternoon. Edna had been trying to paint but was interrupted by Madame Ratignolle, who asked about the dinner party and the new house. After making Edna promise to go to her when she is in labor, she warns her friend that she may want someone to stay with her in the pigeon house. Telling Edna that she acts without adequate reflection, she cautions her that people have begun to talk about Arobin visiting her alone. Edna casually brushes off her warning, and Madame Ratignolle apologizes for even mentioning it.

When Edna seeks out Mademoiselle Reisz for some much-needed relaxation, she finds her friend out but goes inside anyway to wait for her. Idly, she occupies herself with the plants and the piano, until suddenly Robert knocks on the door and walks in. Having stood up, Edna falls back into her seat and unsteadily, begins to speak to her beloved. Wanting him all to herself, she is upset to find out that he arrived the day before yesterday and that he left Mexico because he didn't like the people there.

She studies his face and finds him pretty much the same. For a moment, he looks deep into her eyes, and she recognizes the man she fell in love with at Grand Isle. Having imagined Robert's return many times, she is a little disconcerted to find it somewhat banal and awkward. Instead of waiting for Mademoiselle Reisz to come back, they both go to Edna's house for dinner. Robert finds a photograph of Alcée Arobin that Edna explains she is using to sketch from, and they begin to banter casually with each other.


Madame Ratignolle attempts to remind Edna that she cannot live completely free of social constraints. Even though Edna wants to ignore them, she must realize that people will continue to expect her to follow them. She warns her that her actions will have consequences that she must be aware of. Though Madame Ratignolle is caught up in being the perfect wife and mother, she does have certain insights that Edna could benefit from. Even though she may lack daring and individuality, she does possess a certain wisdom that comes from quietly observing the world around her.

Just as he was when he left her, Robert is very restrained in his emotions and maintains a cool reserve. Although he perhaps overdoes a little of the formality, he is an old-school gentleman and does not want to impose himself where it would be improper to do so. After all, Edna is still a married woman, and Robert does not know that she has started to cheat on her husband.

Robert mentions that he is glad that he didn't know Edna in her old home, and the implication of his words is clear: while she was living on Esplanade Street, she was embedded in her role as wife, mother, and socialite, whereas now he can know her by herself, a whole person. Leónce Pontellier has less of a claim on her now than he did before, and Edna is free of the mundane responsibilities that would lessen the strength of her and Robert's bond.