The Awakening Chapters 14-17
Etienne, Edna's younger son, had been acting up all night while under the care of Madame Ratignolle. It is only nine o'clock and Leonce has already gone to Klein's to look over stocks and bonds, while the children lay down in the cottage. Robert remarks that the two have spent the entire day together, save the few hours that Edna was asleep. He then presses her hand and walks away in the direction of the beach. As he leaves, Edna misses his musical voice and their laughter throughout the day. She wonders why he left and realizes that she is seeing life in a new way now. "That she was seeing with different eyes and making the acquaintance of new conditions in herself that colored and changed her environment, she did not yet suspect" Chapter 14, pg. 53.
Edna enters the dining room at an unusually late hour after her bath and sits between Monsieur Farival and Madame Ratignolle. The topic of conversation is Robert Lebrun's trip to Mexico this very evening. Edna is shocked and disturbed, for she hears of this news from others (while he is at the table), after having spent the entire day with him without his saying a word about going to Mexico. Everyone at the table questions him persistently about his departure. He declares that he made the decision that afternoon at four o'clock. Madame Ratignolle, Victor, and Beudelet make jokes about Mexico and the few Mexican stories they have heard and hope that Robert will exercise extreme caution while there. Edna is frustrated with such nonsensical chatter, for she wants to hear nothing of Mexico. Edna leaves the table after finishing her coffee and begins to straighten up her room, change clothes, and order her dinner. Madame Ratignolle comes to see how she is and to inquire as to why she left the table earlier. She begs Edna to return to the table. Edna declines, saying she does not want to redress and go down to the table again. Madame Ratignolle agrees that Robert showed little respect by not telling anyone about Mexico earlier and returns to the table, for fear that two missing women would show little respect to Madame Lebrun.
Robert comes upstairs to see Edna. She explains her hurt and frustration with his silence and abrupt departure. She has grown accustom to seeing him, spending time with him, and receiving his kind attention. He claims to have done nothing wrong and promises to write to her while away. She hopes he does not forget her and walks away.
"For the first time, she recognized the symptoms of infatuation which she had felt incipiently as a child, as a girl in her early teens, and later as a young woman. The recognition did not lesson the reality, the poignancy of the revelation by any suggestion or promise of instability. The past was nothing to her; offered no lesson which she was willing to heed. The future was a mystery which she never attempted to penetrate. The present alone was significant; was hers, to torture her as it was doing then with the biting conviction that she had lost that which she had held, she had been denied that which her impassioned, newly awakened being demanded. Chapter 15, pg. 59
Madame Ratignolle continually questions Edna as to her well being without Robert. Whatever free time she has, she spends in the water at the beach, for she claims those are her only true moments of pleasure. She sees Robert everywhere, in everything and everybody. Edna spends time with Madame Lebrun looking at photographs of Robert as a baby and young boy. She divulges that Robert refused to take a picture when he got older.
Madame Lebrun had received a letter from Robert in Mexico that only contained a short postscript in regards to Edna about loaning her the book he was reading to her prior to his departure. Everyone in town knows how close the two were while he was at Grand Isle - even Mr. Pontellier - and cannot understand how she gets on without him. Mr. Pontellier would often see him on Carondelet Street in New Orleans.
Edna speaks with Mademoiselle Reisz about her sense of self and about Robert. She reveals her passions and how she would give almost anything for her children...but not herself. "I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me" Chapter 16, pg. 62. Edna thinks of Madame Lebrun and proclaims that she would do anything for him, her favorite son. Mademoiselle Reisz corrects her passionately by stating that Victor is the one and only favorite son for whom she lives and dies. She tells Edna about a scandalous affair Robert had with a little Spanish girl. Edna realizes that it is Mariequita. Frustrated with Mademoiselle Reisz's venomous words, Edna puts on her bathing suit and goes into the water. They exchange addresses, agree that the summer has been exciting (except for the mosquitoes and Farival twins) and hope to visit in the city after the summer.