She was not accustomed to an outward and spoken expression of affection either in herself or in others.
In Chapter VI, Edna, captivated by Adèle’s warm, expressive nature, finds herself opening up to a friendship with her. Throughout her life, Edna has been a solitary, reserved figure, one inclined to occupy herself with private thoughts and to hold herself apart even when surrounded by other people. She shares few confidences, even with her husband, and remains aloof. Over the course of the summer, however, spending time with the Creoles and meeting Robert opens her up to the possibility of developing real ties to people like Adèle and Mademoiselle Reisz.
One piece which that lady played Edna had entitled “Solitude.” It was a short, plaintive, minor strain. The name of the piece was something else, but she called it “Solitude.”
In Chapter IX, Edna attends a musical soirée, and there, while listening to Mademoiselle Reisz play the piano, she identifies with a piece of sad music and dubs it “Solitude.” In doing so, Edna is giving a name to her own condition. Edna has always been an isolated figure, in childhood and within her marriage. The ability to identify her problem, however, opens Edna up to the possibility of correcting it, should she choose, and forming true connections with other people.
All along the journey homeward their presence lingered with her like the memory of a delicious song. But by the time she had regained the city the song no longer echoed in her soul. She was again alone.
In Chapter XXXII, Edna returns to New Orleans after visiting her children at Iberville and finds herself unable to maintain a connection to them. Edna has spent a joyous time with her boys, giving herself over to them wholeheartedly, and even felt pangs of sadness at leaving them. Yet, the union of mother and children is fleeting, measured both in time spent and in lasting effects. The narrator explains that Edna’s memory of herself in the mother role fades the further she gets from Iberville, and by the time she is home, that memory is lost and she exists in her own sphere, as usual.
She felt like some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known.
In the final chapter, Edna stands alone by the sea, naked and alone but with a new sense of perception. While the world around Edna stays the same, she has been transformed by her awakening. She has become reborn. Her willingness to reject societal norms means that she can no longer comfortably live in that society. She refuses to go back to her old self as her husband’s possession. Rather than give up her essential self, she chooses to die alone, in the sea that only the summer before empowered her.