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The Awakening | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

As the party breaks up, Robert proposes they all go for a swim, and so they walk down to the beach. They can hear music from Klein's hotel faintly in the distance, and the smell of the sea reaches them as they near it. When they reach the shore, several wade out into the water; Edna, who has been trying to learn to swim all summer, finally can stay afloat on her own. She is thrilled with her new ability, enthusiastically swims away from shore, and then panics that she has gone too far before swimming back again. After her swim she begins walking back to the cottages alone. Robert catches up with her on her way. Edna confides in him that the night has felt like a dream, with a "thousand emotions" sweeping through her. Robert tells her it is a special night, on which "a spirit that has haunted these shores for ages rises up from the Gulf." He suggests this spirit has put a spell on her; Edna thinks he's being flippant. They walk the rest of the way in silence, and Edna rests in a hammock outside her cottage while Robert smokes a cigarette. When the others return, Robert then leaves.

Analysis

For Edna the walk to the beach is rich with sensory information: the strains of music from Klein's hotel; the smell of the sea and freshly tilled dirt; the moon's white light shining down. The night itself has a tactile quality: it "sat lightly upon the sea and the land." Despite all this sensory beauty, or perhaps because of it, Edna has a sense of missing Robert, who has become a little distant since his conversation with Madame Ratignolle.

In the aftermath of her emotional reaction to Mademoiselle Reisz's music, Edna makes an important stride in becoming more independent: she finally swims successfully on her own. This physical milestone is accompanied by an internal sense of exultation, as if "some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul." Her external and internal parts seem more aligned. Her physical control over her body gives her control of her soul.

Robert's suggestion that a spirit is to blame is lighthearted. As the child of a beach property landowner, he has seen many guests come and go, so he is accustomed to a certain amount of relaxed inhibitions as the summer progresses. He can, therefore, afford to tease Edna about her experience. However, the myth foretells their futures. The spirit is looking for someone worthy of his attentions, after which Edna will no longer wish to dwell among mere mortals. As such he is a symbol of her awakening and a sign that in her enlightened state she will prove even too much for Robert.

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