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The Awakening | Study Guide

Kate Chopin

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Chapter 16

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 16 from Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening.

The Awakening | Chapter 16 | Summary



One morning as Edna leaves for the beach to swim, Mademoiselle Reisz approaches and asks her if she misses Robert. Edna is unsurprised by the question. Indeed she feels that since Robert has gone everything in life seems dull and meaningless. She has been talking about him to everyone. She sits with Madame Lebrun and looks at the woman's old photos of Robert as a child. She asks her husband about a conversation he had with Robert about Mexico. Her sadness is noticed and accepted by everyone. She doesn't feel awkward about it since her feelings for Robert are not like those she has for her husband and her feelings are her own.

Edna replies to Mademoiselle Reisz's question, "Of course I miss Robert." The two walk on together. Mademoiselle Reisz gossips on the way to the sea, Edna goes for a swim, and then the women walk back to the cottages. The summer is winding down; both remark that they will be leaving Grand Isle soon. Mademoiselle Reisz invites Edna to visit her in New Orleans.


This is the last chapter that takes place on Grand Isle until the end of the novel. The summer is nearly over, and the guests will be returning to city life very soon. Mademoiselle Reisz, who has been a very minor character thus far, now emerges as a more substantial character. Her invitation to Edna sets the stage for the friendship the two form once they are back in New Orleans.

The theme of individuality takes a new turn in this chapter as well. So far Edna's emerging individuality has resulted in a greater awareness of herself and an openness to new experiences and feelings. In Robert's absence the drawback of that individuality begins to show. Edna's individuality—her desire to align her outer self to her inner self—has left her vulnerable to the grief of losing Robert. This has dialed back her experience by making life seem dull and meaningless. This conflict between the benefits and costs of individuality and nonconformity will grow in importance from now on in the novel. It is no accident that it is just at this turning point that Mademoiselle Reisz, who will later advise Edna of exactly these costs, becomes more prominent in the story.

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