The novel opens with Léonce Pontellier, a vacationer on Grand Isle (which is just off the coast of New Orleans), reading a newspaper and surveying his surroundings. He is annoyed by a caged parrot loudly repeating its stock phrases, and so leaves the main building of the pension (boardinghouse) for his own cottage. Léonce's wife, Edna Pontellier, and her friend Robert Lebrun return from their swim in the Gulf of Mexico and join Léonce. He soon departs for billiards and socializing at the nearby Klein's hotel.Already Chopin establishes some key symbolism in the novel: Edna is the green-and-yellow parrot telling everyone to "go away, for God's sake." Unable to leave the cage, the parrot must ask everyone to leave when it would prefer to simply fly away.
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