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One day Edna bumps into Robert in her favorite garden café, which is nestled in the suburbs of New Orleans. Robert reacts with uneasiness and surprise at the unexpected encounter but consents to stay and dine with Edna. Although Edna had decided to act with reserve if she were to see Robert, she cannot help but be plain and honest with him. She expresses her disappointment at his own seeming indifference, telling him he is selfish and inconsiderate of her emotions. She emphasizes that she is not afraid to share her opinions, however “unwomanly” he may think them. He responds by accusing her of cruelty, of wishing him to “bare a wound for the pleasure of looking at it, without the intention or power of healing it.” Retreating from his display of anger, Edna returns to pleasantries and thoughtless banter.
The two go to the pigeon house, arriving after dark. When she returns to the room after leaving to wash up, Edna leans over Robert as he sits in a chair, and kisses him. In response, he takes her into his arms and holds her, kissing her back. He confesses that his trip to Mexico was an attempt to escape his love for her. In Mexico, he says, he fantasized that she could become his wife, that perhaps Léonce would “set her free.” Edna declares that the fantasy is reality, because she is no longer one of Léonce’s possessions and will give herself to whomever she pleases. Robert is shocked, perhaps even dismayed, by her announcement.
Edna’s servant interrupts to tell Edna that Adèle is in labor and wants Edna to be with her. Edna leaves, assuring Robert that she loves only him and that they shall soon “be everything to each other.” He begs her to stay, able to think only of holding and keeping her, but she tells him to wait because she will return.
Adèle is irritable and exhausted as she awaits the arrival of the doctor. Edna begins to feel uneasy as memories of her own childbirth experiences surface but seem removed, vague, and undefined. Although she stays by her friend’s side, she desperately wants to leave. She watches the scene of “torture” with a feeling of “inward agony” and a “flaming, outspoken revolt against the ways of Nature.” When the ordeal is over, Edna kisses Adèle good-bye, as Adèle whispers earnestly, “Think of the children, Edna. Oh think of the children!”
“Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.”
Doctor Mandelet, who is also Adèle’s doctor, walks Edna to the pigeon house. He voices his concern that another, less impressionable, woman ought to have stayed with Adèle. He asks Edna if she will go abroad with Léonce, and Edna replies that she will not and that she refuses to be forced into anything anymore. She begins to say that no one has any right to oblige her to do what she does not wish, excepting, perhaps, children. Although Edna trails off incoherently, the doctor grasps her underlying mindset. He notes sympathetically that youth is given to illusions and that he sees sexual passion as Nature’s “decoy” to secure mothers for the propagation of children. Dr. Mandelet adds that the passions given to us by Nature are on a level removed from moral considerations. Before parting, Doctor Mandelet tells Edna that she seems to be in trouble, and that if she would ever like to come to him for help, he would be a most understanding confidant. Edna responds that although she is sometimes upset, she does not like to speak of her despondency. She explains that she simply wants her own way, although she acknowledges the difficulty of this, especially when it means she must “trample upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of others.” She asks the doctor not to blame her for anything, and he leaves, replying that he will blame her if she does not come to speak with him but that she should not blame herself, “whatever comes.”
Edna sits on her porch, brooding over Adèle’s final words, and vowing to think of her children the following day, after her rendezvous with Robert. To her dismay, Robert has left, and there is a note that reads, “I love you. Good-by—because I love you,” in his place. Edna stretches out on the parlor sofa and lies awake all night.
I chose this one for American Literature, and I will support French New Orleans literature.
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