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doctor’s advice, allowing Edna to remain home alone while he is away on business. With herhusband gone and her children away as well, Edna wholly rejects her former lifestyle. She movesinto a home of her own and declares herself independent—the possession of no one. Her love forRobert still intense, Edna pursues an affair with the town seducer, Alcée Arobin, who is able tosatisfy her sexual needs. Never emotionally attached to Arobin, Edna maintains controlthroughout their affair, satisfying her animalistic urges but retaining her freedom from maledomination.At this point, the self-sufficient and unconventional old pianist Mademoiselle Reiszadopts Edna as a sort of protégé, warning Edna of the sacrifices required of an artist. Edna ismoved by Mademoiselle Reisz’s piano playing and visits her often. She is also eager to read the
letters from abroad that Robert sends the woman. A woman who devotes her life entirely to herart, Mademoiselle serves as an inspiration and model to Edna, who continues her process ofawakening and independence. Mademoiselle Reisz is the only person who knows of Robert andEdna’s secret love for one another and she encourages Edna to admit to, and act upon, herfeelings.Unable to stay away, Robert returns to New Orleans, finally expressing openly hisfeelings for Edna. He admits his love but reminds her that they cannot possibly be together, sinceshe is the wife of another man. Edna explains to him her newly established independence,denying the rights of her husband over her and explaining how she and Robert can live togetherhappily, ignoring everything extraneous to their relationship. But despite his love for Edna,Robert feels unable to enter into the adulterous affair.When Adèle undergoes a difficult and dangerous childbirth, Edna leaves Robert’s arms togo to her friend. She pleads with him to wait for her return. From the time she spends with Edna,Adèle senses that Edna is becoming increasingly distant, and she understands that Edna’srelationship with Robert has intensified. She reminds Edna to think of her children and advocatesthe socially acceptable lifestyle Edna abandoned so long ago. Doctor Mandelet, while walkingEdna home from Adèle’s, urges her to come see him because he is worried about the outcome ofher passionate but confused actions. Already reeling under the weight of Adèle’s admonition,Edna begins to perceive herself as having acted selfishly.Edna returns to her house to find Robert gone, a note of farewell left in his place. Robert’sinability to escape the ties of society now prompts Edna’s most devastating awakening. Hauntedby thoughts of her children and realizing that she would have eventually found even Robertunable to fulfill her desires and dreams, Edna feels an overwhelming sense of solitude. Alone ina world in which she has found no feeling of belonging, she can find only one answer to theinescapable and heartbreaking limitations of society. She returns to Grand Isle, the site of herfirst moments of emotional, sexual, and intellectual awareness, and, in a final escape, givesherself to the sea. As she swims through the soft, embracing water, she thinks about her freedom