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The Awakening | Chapter 23 | Summary

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Summary

Edna's father, the Colonel, is visiting, and this is a welcome distraction for her. Edna asks him to sit for a sketch, and she also takes him to visit the Ratignolles.

Doctor Mandelet visits the Pontelliers and finds no evidence of Edna's "morbid condition," as Mr. Pontellier described it. Edna is in good spirits after a day at the races, and the doctor notices there is "no repression in [Edna's] glance or gesture." Edna shares a story about "a woman who paddled away with her lover one night in a pirogue and never came back." On his way home the doctor regrets having gone to dinner; he "did not want the secrets of other lives thrust upon him." He thinks, "I hope to heaven it isn't Alcée Arobin."

Analysis

At first spending time with her father makes Edna happy and enthusiastic. They talk together, go to the races, go to a dinner party, and generally have fun together. He agrees to sit for a portrait. Perhaps being with the Colonel reminds Edna of a time before she was married and had children. These scenes demonstrate that Edna's problem is not with men per se, and she is not averse to serving as a caretaker or nurturer. She simply insists on her right to choose when, where, and whom she will nurture.

Edna's story about the two lovers is enlightening to Doctor Mandelet, who interprets it (correctly) as revealing Edna's love for a man other than her husband. Her story also touches on an important symbol of the story: the sea. The two lovers don't wander off together; they paddle away on the sea never to return. The sea, in this story, represents the freedom of escaping from the rules of society that restrict the two lovers' relationship. This symbolic use of the sea as a vehicle for freedom might help readers interpret the end of the story.

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