Summary and Analysis Chapter 20



In one of her dark moods, Edna decides to visit Mademoiselle Reisz. She cannot find her address, so in an effort to track her down, she goes to her last known address and then thinks to visit Madame Lebrun. There Edna learns that Robert has sent his mother two letters but with no message for or mention of Edna. Madame Lebrun gives Mademoiselle Reisz's address to Edna, who leaves to make that visit. Victor notes that something about Edna seems quite different, assessing it as a change for the better.


Edna locates her friend's address only with difficulty and "her desire to see Mademoiselle Reisz had increased tenfold since these unlooked-for obstacles had arisen to thwart it." Her response to the temporary unattainability of her friend is another expression of Edna's propensity for desiring the unobtainable, the forbidden — a lifelong feature exaggerated by her newly flourishing rebellious soul. She has a contrarian's spirit, desiring that which is denied for perhaps no more reason than the denial. This aspect of her character casts doubt on the sincerity of the infatuations she has experienced throughout her life, including her current obsession with Robert.

Note that Madame Lebrun's house appears prison-like, dominated by iron bars that "were a relic of the old régime . . . no one had ever thought of dislodging them." The bars symbolize social constraints on women that may not be necessary or appropriate but remain in place out of custom and lack of conscious examination. Edna is looking to take the bars off her life and forge her own path.

Victor, ever the rebel, recognizes the new development in her character, remarking to his mother that the "city atmosphere has improved her. Some way she doesn't seem like the same woman." Indeed she finds herself indulging Victor in his wild, slightly off-color stories of his adventures in the city, "remembering too late that she should have been dignified and reserved." Victor is as charismatic as his brother, successful in engaging Edna's lust for life, as his appearance at Edna's party in Chapter 30 attests.


chambres garnies furnished rental rooms.

Régime (1766-1803) the period of time when the Spanish ruled the territory containing New Orleans.

scintillant that gives off sparks; that flashes or sparkles.

colored altered, influenced, distorted, or exaggerated to some degree.

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