Current book: The Awakening
Pages read: 93 - 137
Well, Robert Lebrun doesn't return to Grand Isle during the remainder of the summer, In September, the Pontelliers (and all the other families) go back to New Orleans to their normal lives. Edna, however, finds herself unable to conduct herself according to the needs and desires of her husband and his society. She stops having a day for calls and visiting, becomes distant from the children and her husband, and wanders around the city on the streetcars all day, neglecting her household so much that Léonce has to step in and discipline the servants. (Oh, the horror.)
During this period, Edna goes to visit a pianist she met on Grand Isle several times, and the old woman, who is something of an eccentric, plays for her and shows her the letters that Robert has sent. These letters are full of questions about Edna, and it becomes clear that Robert went away to Mexico not because he did not care about Edna, but rather because he cared too much. One day, one of the letters indicates that Robert will be returning soon.
In the meantime, Léonce goes to New York on business and his mother comes to take the children to spend time in the country, leaving Edna alone in the house. Though she is initially sorry to see Léonce go, she soon revels in her freedom. She decides, in fact, that the house is too large for her and that she must move to a small cottage nearby, which she'll rent with her own money, a small dowry from her mother that she brought with her to the marriage. During this time, she also meets Alcée Arobin, a young man of no good reputation who is immediately infatuated with her and begins to pester her with unwelcome advances.
Though some of Edna's actions are histrionic and even, possibly, indicative of depression, I can't help but feel as though I'm rooting for her to develop her sense of self. She takes her hatred of marriage a little too far, as when she visits a couple of friends, happily married, and feels only pity for their boring, normal lives. And yet, it is far from incomprehensible that she, feeling stifled and unhappy as she does, would find any domestic relationship abhorrent. As for the situation with Robert, I don't want to think that it is only his appearance in her life that led her to understand herself as an individual and begin to break out of the confines of her society, but her affection for him is the most tangible transgression against these strictures that she has ever felt. Because it represents such a strong departure from what she is used to, it also leads her into realizing that it is not the only such departure she can experience.
The experience attached to disregarding the rules of society is difficult to describe. It's like running through the grocery store. Have you ever run through the grocery store? The looks people give you span a range of emotions that includes confusion, fear, anger, and disbelief. It is a tiny, tiny thing, to run in the grocery store, and yet, it puts you completely outside the bounds of society for a brief moment. It's irresponsible and silly and possibly dangerous. And it makes you feel free.
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