The Awakening Study Guide

The Awakening By Kate Chopin

Edna Pontellier, husband Léonce, and children Etienne and Raoul are vacationing at Grant Isle resort, which is run by Madame Leburn and sons Robert and Victor. Edna spends most of her time with Adèle Ratignolle, a close friend who continually reminds her of her duties as wife and mother - duties that Edna feels oppressed by. While at Grand Isle, Edna begins to feel close to Robert, who actively seeks her affection. Robert senses that they have no chance at a real relationship, and retreats into a 'business venture' in Mexico.

Edna feels complex and ever-changing emotions toward her duties toward her family and her desire for freedom and Robert. Their vacation ends, and the family returns home to New Orleans. Slowly, Edna begins to seek happiness rather than duty, shunning society and the traditional duties of motherhood. Léonce calls a doctor, fearing she is losing her mind, but the doctor tells him to just let her be.

Léonce then decides to leave Edna home as he travels to New York on business. The children are sent to live with their grandmother, giving Edna room to breathe. She moves out of her house and into a nearby bungalow, and has a brief and akward affair with Alcée Arobin. She also reaches out to Mademoiselle Reisz, a recitalist who worked at the Grand Isle and is in contact with Robert. Through Reisz, she learns that Robert is still thinking about her.

Robert comes to New Orleans, but finds excuse after excuse to avoid Edna. Finally, they meet, and he confesses his passionate love for her and admits that the 'business trip' was just an excuse to avoid a relationship that was doomed. Adèle calls on Edna to help with a difficult childbirth, learns of her thoughts of Robert, and pleads with her to think of her family. When Edna returns home, a note from Robert firmly states that he has left and will never return to her.

Edna immediately returns to Grand Isle seeking Robert, and when she fails to find him, she swims into the Gulf of Mexico and allows herself to drown.

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