The Awakening By Kate Chopin Summary and Analysis Chapter 3

Summary

That night when Léonce returns from Klein's hotel, cheerful and talkative, Edna is already asleep. His entrance wakes her and he tries to elicit responses to his gossip despite her sleepiness. Checking on the sleeping boys, he reports to Edna that Raoul has a fever and compels her to check on the boy, despite her objections that Raoul was quite healthy when he went to bed. By the time Léonce goes to sleep, Edna is fully awake. She goes onto the porch and cries until the mosquitoes force her back inside to bed.

The next morning, Léonce leaves for New Orleans for the workweek. He sends a box of sweet and savory treats to Edna, which she shares with everyone else at Grand Isle.

Analysis

Léonce's behavior upon returning home illustrates his perception of his wife as more of an amusement than a partner. When he arrives home, possibly drunk (considering his exuberant and talkative mood), he awakens Edna from a sound sleep but expects her to chatter back at him. He is displeased that "his wife . . . evinced so little interest in things which concerned him, and valued so little his conversation." In later chapters, contrast this insensitivity and selfishness on Léonce's part with the studied courtliness and chivalry displayed by Arobin and Robert.

Not only does Léonce awaken her to provide an audience for his anecdotes, he also chastises her for not immediately checking on the fever that he mistakenly perceives in Raoul. When, instead, she asserts that Raoul likely does not have a fever because he gave no sign of sickness up until he went to bed, Léonce accuses her of neglecting the children. His reproach, voiced "in a monotonous, insistent way," is ostensibly sensible, given that they have divided up the family support duties, with Léonce working outside the home in a brokerage business while Edna assumes full responsibility for all domestic areas, including childcare. Yet this division of labor was not the option actively selected by Edna but the default choice of her society and culture. While Léonce can anticipate on Sundays the upcoming "lively week on Carondelet Street," Edna remains another week on Grand Isle, limited to the few pursuits available to children and the other mothers. With the lively Robert as her greatest diversion, perhaps her infatuation with him is inevitable.

By the time Edna establishes that Raoul does not have a fever — evidenced in how quickly she returns to their bedroom — Edna is "thoroughly awake" while Léonce is soon "fast asleep," unable to apologize for his accusations. This incident sparks a bout of crying; Edna takes her tears onto the front porch. At this point Edna is herself not sure why she is crying, because similar occurrences of her husband's rudeness and insensitivity "were not uncommon in her married life." Previously, she had mentally weighed such incidences against Léonce's ostensible kindness, such as the box of bonbons and patés he soon sends her from New Orleans. Chopin indicates that Edna has not yet reached any kind of palpable resistance to her husband and the submissive role he asks her to play: "She did not sit there inwardly upbraiding her husband, lamenting at Fate…She was just having a good cry all to herself." This "good cry" precludes the dissatisfaction with her married life that develops in later chapters.

Note that Edna is prevented from having a full-on romantic brooding on the porch by the mosquitoes attacking her arms — a realistic consideration in what could have become a dramatic sulk.

Léonce must feel he can buy favor with money: When Edna counts out the dollar bills she'll use to buy her sister a wedding present, Léonce objects "Oh! We'll treat Sister Janet better than that." Because he didn't treat his wife very well the night before but sends her bonbons later, he clearly equates material gifts as a substitute for kindness and sensitivity. When Edna shares the box of goodies with the others, everyone declares that Léonce "was the best husband in the world" for his material gesture. In response Edna "was forced to admit that she knew of none better" but the value of such an admission is doubtful when it is forced. The seeds of disenchantment with her husband — and by extension, her life — have been planted and are just beginning to consider sprouting.

Glossary

consuming wasting away; perishing.

peignoir a woman's loose, full dressing gown; like a negligee.

mules lounging slippers that do not cover the heels.

rockaway a light horse-drawn carriage with four wheels, open sides, and a standing top.

Carondelet Street the center of New Orleans' financial district.

friandises delicacies.

pâtés meat pies.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

Despite their differences, Madame Ratignolle enjoys Edna's company. Why?




Quiz