Summary: Chapter I
The novel opens on Grand Isle, a summer retreat for the wealthy French Creoles of New Orleans.
Léonce Pontellier, a wealthy New Orleans businessman of forty, reads his newspaper outside the
Isle’s main guesthouse. Two birds, the pets of the guesthouse’s proprietor, Madame Lebrun, are
making a great deal of noise. The parrot repeats phrases in English and French while the mock-
ingbird sings persistently. Hoping to escape the birds’ disruptive chatter, Léonce retreats into the
cottage he has rented. Glancing back at the main building, Léonce notes that the noise emanating
from it has increased: the Farival twins play the piano, Madame Lebrun gives orders to two ser-
vants, and a lady in black walks back and forth with her rosary beads in hand. Down by the wa-
ter-oaks his four- and five-year-old sons play under the watchful eye of their quadroon (one-
quarter black) nurse.
Léonce smokes a cigar and watches as his wife, Edna, strolls toward him from the beach, accom-
panied by the young Robert Lebrun, Mrs. Lebrun’s son. Léonce notices that his wife is sun-
burned and scolds her for swimming during the hottest hours of the day. He returns the rings he’s
been holding for Edna and invites Robert to play some billiards at Klein’s hotel. Robert declines
and stays to talk with Edna as Léonce walks away.
Summary: Chapter II
Robert and Edna talk without pause, discussing the sights and people around them. Robert, a
clean-shaven, carefree young man, discusses his plans to seek his fortune in Mexico at the end of
the summer. Edna is handsome and engaging. She talks about her childhood in Kentucky
bluegrass country and her sister’s upcoming wedding.
Summary: Chapter III
Léonce is in great spirits when he returns from playing billiards late that evening. He wakes
Edna to tell her the news and gossip from the club, and he is disappointed when she responds
with groggy half-answers. He goes to check on his sons and informs Edna that Raoul seems to
have a fever. She replies that the child was fine when he went to bed, but Léonce insists that she
attend to him, criticizing Edna for her “habitual neglect of the children.”
After a cursory visit to the boys’ bedroom, Edna returns to bed, refusing to answer any of her
husband’s inquiries. Léonce soon falls asleep but Edna remains wide awake. She sits on the
porch and weeps quietly as she listens to the sea. Though she has found herself inexplicably un-
happy many times before, she has always felt comforted by the kindness and devotion of her
husband. This particular evening, however, Edna experiences an unfamiliar oppression. It fills
her “whole being” and keeps her out on the porch until the bugs force her back inside.
The next morning, Léonce departs for a week-long business trip. Before he leaves, he gives Edna