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The Awakening | Study Guide

Kate Chopin

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Chapter 22

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 22 from Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening.

The Awakening | Chapter 22 | Summary



One morning on his way to town, Mr. Pontellier stops and consults Doctor Mandelet about Edna's "odd" behavior. He is worried that she lets the housekeeping go and has strange ideas about "the eternal rights of women." Mr. Pontellier is also concerned that she's spending so much time going around town by herself, coming in late, and neglecting her duties to the family. Doctor Mandelet advises Mr. Pontellier to leave Edna alone and not to let her behavior bother him, as it is most likely a "passing whim." The doctor does agree to stop by the Pontellier home to see Edna, however, before Mr. Pontellier leaves.


Doctor Mandelet is an interesting character because he seems relatively unconcerned about Edna's behavior. Even when Léonce Pontellier tells the doctor that he and Edna "meet in the morning at the breakfast table," a delicate way of saying their relationship has ceased to have a sexual component, he doesn't react with outrage at Edna—but he is quick to recognize the possibility that Mr. Pontellier has mistreated Edna. His presence acknowledges that adultery is perhaps more common than people acknowledge, even in polite society. He helps to normalize Edna's longings, making her less of a "freak" while simultaneously highlighting her need for absolute independence separate from mere adultery, a different matter altogether.

His advice to just leave Edna to her own devices can be seen as supportive of her, or of women's rights, or both. He does note that "women are not all alike," a notion that might seem obvious but which Léonce Pontellier may not fully understand. Yet Doctor Mandelet also ridicules "pseudo-intellectual women—super-spiritual superior beings." Whatever his opinions of women it is clear that the doctor's wait-and-see attitude comes from his greater experience of diverse human beings and human relationships while Mr. Pontellier seems to be rather naive in his approach.

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