The Awakening

The Awakening Summary and Analysis of Chapters 34-36

Chapter XXXIV:


Robert and Edna have an unremarkable dinner, and Edna asks him about an embroidered tobacco pouch that he got from a girl in Mexico. Robert is evasive and downplays the girl's significance. Arobin comes in, and Edna continues to bait Robert about the Mexican girl. Robert decides to leave, and Arobin remains behind while Edna writes a letter. Edna tells Arobin to go away because she wants to be alone, and after he leaves, she relives every moment she has just spent with Robert. She feels sad and jealous of the Mexican girl and senses that she is not as close to him as she had imagined.


Edna becomes extremely jealous of the Mexican girl that Robert met even though it seems quite apparent that he is still enamored with Edna herself. He tells her that he has forgotten nothing about their summer at Grand Isle and tries to downplay the significance of the girl from Mexico. However, Edna will simply not let the subject drop, which is quite ironic considering that she has been sleeping with Arobin. At the end of the chapter, she is consumed with jealousy, even though Arobin has just left her and told her that he adores her.

Robert and Edna do not quite regain their earlier level of intimacy, and their conversation is awkward and stilted. Edna tries to probe for intimate details, but Robert tries to keep himself back. Their meeting is quite anticlimactic and not at all what Edna had hoped it would be like. Reality is disappointing, although as she will soon discover, Robert is not behaving in a way that reflects how he truly feels.

Edna and Arobin almost behave like a married couple at the end of the chapter. She writes a letter while he reads the paper, and they discuss trivialities as if they are accustomed to spending a lot of together just doing nothing. However, despite the illusion of comfortable domesticity that they create, neither forgets that theirs is just a minor fling. Edna alludes to the numerous women he has slept with, and Arobin acknowledges that he is not always sincere in everything he says to them. Their cozy "relationship" provides yet another example of appearances not conforming to reality.

Chapter XXXV:


When Edna awakes, she feels only joy that Robert has returned, and she imagines what he may be doing that day. She receives pleasant notes from her husband and children, as well as one from Arobin, which she does not reply to. She is disappointed when Robert does not come to visit her for three days, and one night she accepts Arobin's offer to go on a drive. They are discreet in their affair, but they sleep together at her home before he departs. Edna does not feel sad when he leaves, but neither does she feel joy when she awakes.


Robert's presence in town throws her into extremes of emotion. She goes to bed despairing that he does not love her, and she wakes up ecstatic and confident that he does. Robert plays a large role in her mental life: she thinks about him constantly, and her emotions are closely tied to his actions. Throughout the novel, she has experienced similar mood swings, but her feelings are intensified now that Robert has the potential to be actually present in her life.

The note that Edna receives from her husband informs her that he will be returning shortly and that they will then be taking an extended trip overseas. Edna sublimates the joy she is feeling at Robert's recent arrival and writes her husband a friendly note. She consciously decides to live in the moment without thinking about the future. This decision simply conforms with behavior that she has been already exhibiting throughout the novel.

Edna seems to sleep with Arobin because she has nothing better to do. She responds to him sexually but without any commitment to him. As with her father and children, she allows him into her life because it suits her to do so at that particular moment. Unlike Robert, Arobin does not have the power to affect her emotions. He is peripheral to her life, though they use each other for mutual pleasure.

Chapter XXXVI:


Edna frequently goes to a small café out in the suburbs that is run by a mulatto woman named Catiche. It is secluded and quiet, surrounded by gardens and inhabited by a cat. One day when she is there, Robert also appears and awkwardly joins her at her table. She asks him why he has been avoiding her, and he grows irritable and refuses to give her any excuses. They begin to fight, but soon veer off into a more neutral conversation. Robert accompanies her back home, and she does not pressure him to stay. He does stay, however, and while she washes her face, he sits in a chair with his eyes closed.

When Edna returns, she asks if he is asleep and then kisses him. He responds and admits that his love for her was what kept him away from her for so long. He tells her that he could not pursue her because she was married and that he dreamed of Leónce setting her free to become his wife. She tells him that she is not a possession and can give herself to whomever she wants, which makes him turn a little pale. At this point, a servant comes with the message that Madame Ratignolle has gone into labor. Edna tells Robert to wait for her there, and before she leaves, they kiss passionately. Edna says that she loves Robert, that he awoke her from a dream last summer, and that now they can live together forever. With Robert pleading with her not to leave, she says goodbye to him seductively.


This chapter represents a climactic moment for Edna. Throughout most of the novel, she has been yearning for Robert, and finally, after a rough start, she and her beloved finally acknowledge that they are in love with each other. At the beginning of the chapter, 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 on the mouth unsolicited. Acting on her sexual desires even though she is married, Edna is a remarkable character in early twentieth-century fiction. She is breaking all taboos and trying to have not just one, but two, extramarital affairs. Whereas upper-middle-class women were expected to repress all traces of their sexuality, Edna's sexual desires are central to her personality, and she acts on them with pleasure and confidence, rather than shame.

Edna is unapologetic about her actions, but Chopin also takes a neutral narrative tone. Chopin describes the action without placing any moral censure on her characters, Edna in particular. Instead, she encourages the reader to sympathize with Edna, who has been pining away for her one true love for so long. Such a narrative stance was considered quite improper at the time.

It is significant to note that Edna declares herself to be the possession of no one. She is not simply property that Leónce can give to Robert, and she tells Robert he is foolish if he thinks this to be the case. When she asserts that "I give myself where I choose," she is alluding to the fact that she has already given herself to Arobin. Robert seems to suspect something of the sort because he turns pale at her words. Thus, while Edna is deeply in love with Robert, she is still rejecting the traditional definition of marriage, which declares a woman the property of her husband.