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The Awakening | Study Guide

Kate Chopin

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Chapter 21

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 21 from Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening.

The Awakening | Chapter 21 | Summary



When Edna arrives at Mademoiselle Reisz's shabby apartment, the pianist laughs, having thought that Edna had forgotten all about her. Mademoiselle Reisz doesn't think Edna really likes her, and Edna admits she's not sure either. The two have coffee, and Mademoiselle Reisz reveals that Robert had sent her a letter from Mexico; the letter had been mostly about Edna however. Edna shares that she is becoming an artist, but Mademoiselle Reisz is skeptical, saying that an artist must have a "courageous soul." The pianist agrees to let Edna read the letter, and as she plays the piano Edna does so. By the time the music ends Edna is sobbing. In some distress she leaves, pausing long enough to ask if she may come again.


Edna's ambivalent feelings toward Mademoiselle Reisz are not unlike the conflicted feelings she has toward Madame Ratignolle. She spends time with these women and forms friendships with them, but they make her uncomfortable as well. They represent two extremes, but Edna longs for a middle way in which she can have romantic relationships without the restrictions of conventional womanhood and marriage. Mademoiselle Reisz alludes to this when she notes that an artist must have a courageous soul. It takes courage to give up everything to live in accord with your true self—and that is what is required of an artist, in Mademoiselle Reisz's opinion.

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