The Awakening

Kate Chopin

Chapters XXV–XXIX

Summary Chapters XXV–XXIX

Summary: Chapter XXVIII

After Alcée leaves, Edna weeps. She feels guilty when she considers the material possessions surrounding her, all of which her husband has provided. She understands the irresponsible nature of her actions, yet she feels no shame or regret. Instead, it is the thought of Robert and of her love for him, growing ever “quicker, fiercer” and “more overpowering,” that affects her. She suddenly feels that she at last understands the world around her, “as if a mist had been lifted from her eyes, enabling her to look upon and comprehend the significance of life. . . .” Her only regret is that her kiss with Alcée was not motivated by love.

Summary: Chapter XXIX

Without waiting for Léonce’s reply to her letter, Edna prepares to move to the house around the block, which one of Edna’s servants dubs the “pigeon house,” likening it in size and appearance to the dovecotes in which the upper classes would keep domesticated pigeons for show or sport. When Alcée arrives, he finds Edna dressed in an old dress and kerchief, packing only the possessions that Léonce did not buy for her. She is neither rude to her friend nor is she particularly attentive. Rather, Edna is totally absorbed in her work. Alcée reminds her of the dinner celebration she had planned, and she tells him it is set for the night before her move. He begs to see her sooner, and she scolds him but laughs as she does so, looking at him “with eyes that at once gave him the courage to wait and made it torture to wait.”

Analysis: Chapters XXV–XXIX

Edna’s rebellion involves her need to satisfy her physical as well as artistic desires. Alcée presents an outlet for her animalism, which gains strength as the two spend more and more time together, until finally Edna finds she can longer fight against it. When Alcée first presses his lips to Edna’s hand, she attempts to impress upon him her fidelity and disinterest. While her eyes still display her “old, vanishing self,” the sexual desires within Edna are pressing on her from the inside, seeking expression. Edna finally succumbs to Alcée’s seductions after she confesses to Mademoiselle Reisz—aloud for the first time—her love for Robert. It may seem ironic that she gives herself to one man just after declaring her devotion to another, but, in terms of Edna’s development, the two acts are joined. Both are part of the same process of passionate release: Edna’s verbal admission to love in one corner of her life gives her the strength to pursue it further in another.

During her conversation with Alcée, Edna directly voices her desire for self-realization. She wants to become more acquainted with herself, but she cannot do so within the constraints of social conventions. By those standards, she is “wicked”—subverting order, descending into selfishness and hedonism—yet she herself cannot interpret her desire for an independent identity as a “wicked” endeavor. Alcée becomes peevish at her philosophical tarrying; he wants her to play the role of the typical, infatuated adulteress. Clearly, Alcée is used to having the upper hand in his romantic relationships and views women as pleasurable conquests.

Edna refuses to be treated or behave as a stereotype. In her growing independence, she has declared that she will never again be the possession of another, and she abides by this statement in her affair with Alcée. She expects him to make allowances for her own needs. When Alcée finds her in a frenzy of preparation for her move, Edna will not agree to see him at his convenience. Moreover, he does not find her “languishing, reproachful, or indulging in sentimental tears” as he most likely expected. Edna is unwilling to let her affair, the first sexual relationship she has had that is not one of possession, consume her life. Her relationship with Alcée does not keep her from pursuing any other aspects of her awakening. It simply quells the sexual desire that had consumed her days, and even her dreams.

Edna’s move to the “pigeon house” also allows her to move away from her husband’s possessive hold over her. Edna no longer has to look at the material objects that Léonce has purchased, and which remind her of his ownership of her. The objects have also served as a sort of reproach to Edna, making her feel guilty for her infidelity toward the man who has provided her with her livelihood. Once distanced from these reminders and alone in a new space of her own, Edna can enjoy a temporary escape from convention. She can behave as she likes, without regard to how others will view her actions. Moreover, she believes the move may constitute a first, practical step in consummating her relationship with Robert. Knowing that Robert has gone to Mexico in order to avoid having an affair with a woman who is already the possession of another man, Edna believes that by freeing herself of the financial chains that bind her to Léonce, she can clear the path for a relationship with the man she loves.