The Awakening: Novel Summary: Part 36

Chapter 36advertisement
 While eating dinner one afternoon in a suburban garden, Ednas and Roberts paths cross again. Her former resolve to be reserved when seeing him again almost immediately evaporates; she asks him why he has been avoiding her. Robert protests that she is “so personal” and “cruel,” forcing him to give her excuses. He does, however, escort her back to her house, where she kisses him. He responds, saying that he has been fighting his love for her. He says he thought of Edna during his entire time in Mexico; Edna reminds him that he never wrote to her, a reminder to which Robert does not directly respond. Instead, he points to her married status as the reason why he never dared express his dream that she might become his wife. Edna informs him that he has been “a very, very foolish boy,” for she is “no longer one of Mr. Pontelliers possessions” (recall again the narrators comment in Chapter III). Interestingly, Robert reacts to the news of Ednas newfound freedom with seeming alarm-an indication, perhaps, that he did not expect Edna to take him at his word.
At any rate, their conversation is interrupted when Celestine, Ednas servant, brings word that Madame Ratignolle is ill and requests Ednas presence. Before she leaves, Edna declares her love to Robert. She asks him to wait for her until she gets back. The narrator comments that Robert has been “deprived . . . of every impulse but the longing to hold her and keep her.” The narrator is employing irony: while Edna has just declared her freedom from all such notions of being “held” and “kept” as one keeps property or possessions, Roberts dreams of Edna are couched in just such language. Readers may sense that neither Robert nor Ednas futures are likely to be as bright as the characters imagine they will be, since those futures represent opposite views of Ednas place in the world-a world which, we have been warned through narrative details (e.g., the “last supper” of Chapter XXX), Edna will (must?) soon be departing.