pigeon-house pleased her. It at once assumed the intimate character
of a home, while she herself invested it with a charm which it reflected
like a warm glow. There was with her a feeling of having descended
in the social scale, with a corresponding sense of having risen
in the spiritual. Every step which she took toward relieving herself
from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual.
She began to look with her own eyes; to see and to apprehend the
deeper undercurrents of life. No longer was she content to “feed
upon opinion” when her own soul had invited her.
These lines, which are found in Chapter
XXXII, chart Edna’s growing independence. In part, Edna’s strength
comes from her rejection of her social role. Her new house is more
modest, and its small size disallows the entertaining that was such
a part of her former life. Consequently, Edna believes that independence
and social rank form an inverse relationship; she has “descended
in the social scale,” but she has “risen in the spiritual.” Ignoring
the expectations of those around allows her to act in accordance
to her own impulses and opinions.
Edna’s association of strength and individual expansion
with a total rupture from society seems somewhat erroneous. Ultimately, Edna
defines herself according to her ability to disregard, rather than
interact with, others. Her belief that independence and integration
within society are diametrically opposed may underlie her tragic
death at the end of the book because Edna leads herself to a profound
solitude just at the moment when her sense of self is most acute.
Perhaps, however, the society in which Edna lives does not allow
her to integrate herself and remain independent. Because her society
denies women the ability to think and act as individuals, a woman
who asserts her own, differing set of hopes and dreams may end in
an all-or-nothing bind.