Robert reacts to Alcée’s arrival at the pigeon house after dinner as he reacted to her photograph. As if yielding to Alcée’s higher authority, Robert leaves Edna immediately. Alcée’s later comments indicate that he had been unaware of Edna’s acquaintance with Robert, which renders ironically accurate Alcée’s unknowing comment, “I am always less fortunate than Robert. Has he been imparting tender confidences?” Edna will have nothing to do with her lover because she is too consumed by thoughts of her confusing reunion.
Since they first met, Edna and Robert have been misunderstanding one another with increasing severity. On Grand Isle, they understood each other and the time they spent together was harmonious. Since Robert left for Mexico, he has not communicated with Edna at all. She learned of his feelings indirectly, by reading his letters to Mademoiselle Reisz. Now, their renewed relationship is fraught, for the first time, with miscommunication. When Edna echoes almost verbatim Robert’s expression of his nostalgia and misery during their time apart, he misunderstands her mimicry of his statement to be a form of mockery and consequently declares her “cruel.” And, although Robert stays away from Edna because he recognizes the impossibility of their union, Edna doesn’t understand his distance and soon returns to her former depression and hopelessness.
Thus, when she sees Alcée again, she is so consumed by her unrequited passion for Robert that Alcée’s touch provides the only possibility for peace, however fleeting. Robert is now much nearer at hand than he has been for the past months, but she turns to Alcée for lustful satisfaction. In doing so, Edna is for the first time utterly honest about her sexual needs. She finally admits to herself that her affair with Alcée has not been solely in anticipation of Robert’s return but also in response to the sheer, anarchic passions raging within her, independent of any emotional devotion. Her forthright acknowledgment of her desire marks the completion of her sexual awakening.