The Awakening Chapters 4-7
Mr. Pontellier continues to express his disgust at his wife's performance in her motherly duties. However, Mrs. Pontellier simply is not a mother-type of woman. She is alone in her existence at Grand Isle.
"The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels." Chapter 4, pg. 10
Adele Ratignolle, one of the regulars at Grand Isle and friend of Edna's, epitomizes this mother-woman in every exquisite way. Her long blonde flowing hair complements her striking blue eyes, slender arms, growing figure, and delicate hands. She is knitting winter garments for her children and offers to do so for Edna's. After seven years of marriage, she has had three children, one every two years, and is presently pregnant. She speaks of her pregnancy as "a condition."
Robert, Madame Ratignolle, and Mrs. Pontellier routinely sat by the cottages talking, gazing, and sewing. Robert, at a youthful 26 years, habitually followed an older woman, declaring his love and passion. In jest, he would speak amorously towards Adele - an action that Edna rejoices in not receiving.
Edna dabbled in painting and would often bring a canvas and paints outside to their conversations. She finally paints Adele, a subject she believes to be as poised and beautiful as the Madonna, but crumples up the sketch and throws it away. Occasionally as she paints, Robert places his head lovingly on her arm. She shuns his actions, but does not forbid them. Her children come running up to her to investigate the contents on the bonbon box beside her. They carry her paints inside as Madame Ratignolle has a fainting spell from the long day. Robert invites Edna to bathe in the ocean. She sees the water as a loving entreaty, welcoming her with assertion and strength. He removes her hat and the sun sets as they walk together towards the beach.
Edna cannot explain her actions and visitation to the beach with Robert. She feels contradictory impulses and walks into them openly. Edna is beginning to understand her place in the universe as a woman and more so, as a human being. She sees this man two years her junior and feels safe with her emotions and her soul. She also understands how tumultuous and chaotic this early time of discovery is for a soul. She feels comfort in the ocean.
"The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clearing, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in the abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace." Chapter 6, pg. 17
Edna is attracted to Adele's grace, charm, and beauty, and the two become inseparable, close friends, walking to the beach and cottages together, sometimes escaping Robert. Their cottages, the Ratignolle's and the Pontellier's, are joined, allowing the two women to easily spend time together, relaxing by the beach and watching young lovers pass by. Adele asks Edna what is on her mind. Edna shrugs off the question, leading Adele to remark about the heat causing too much strain on the mind. She believes they do not need to think too strenuously. Edna describes her present view of the beach, with the blue sky and grand ocean that makes her think of her youth in Kentucky. She speaks of the scenery as a painter craving a canvas to create art. She remembers wandering away from church and remarks that she sometimes feels like that little girl trying to avoid church, walking through a green meadow.
Adele takes Edna's hand in hers and begins to comfort her physically. Edna is not used to such elicit expression of emotion, for she had always fought with her sisters, Janet and Margaret, and was never truly close with any girlfriends growing up in Kentucky. She never held any close friends and occasionally had crushes on different men. She had occasional infatuations with everyone from a cavalry officer to a young plantation gentleman from Mississippi. She felt resigned in her fate of an empty and emotionless life of relationships, and this feeling soon led to her marriage. "Her marriage to Leonce Pontellier was purely an accident, in this respect resembling many other marriages which masquerade as the decrees of Fate. It was in the midst of her secret great passion that she met him. He fell in love, as men are in the habit of doing, and pressed his suit with an earnestness and ardor which left nothing to be desired" Chapter 6, pg. 23-24. It was a combination of her father and Margaret's opposition to his Catholic religion and his unrelenting flattery that led to their marriage. Soon, the devotion died and the reality set in. Despite her empty soul, Edna seems resigned to accept her fate.
Although she recalls these past memories and emotions that day on the beach, she does not reveal them to Adele. Adele comforts her as best she can until Robert Lebrun arrives with both sets of children. As they leave to return to the cottages, Adele complains of leg cramps and relies on Robert to help her walk inside.