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The Awakening | Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

Léonce Pontellier returns quite late from his evening at Klein's hotel, and although Edna is half asleep he gossips and tells stories as he empties his pockets. He becomes annoyed by her scant response. He forgot the presents he promised his children, but he checks on them as they sleep. When Raoul stirs restlessly in his sleep, Mr. Pontellier tells Edna the boy has a fever and berates her for being an inattentive mother. He demands she attend to the child. She finally gets up and checks on the boy. Meanwhile her husband lights and smokes a cigar and then goes to bed.

When her husband is asleep, Edna begins to cry. She rocks herself in the wicker rocking chair, overcome with an "indescribable oppression."

In the morning Mr. Pontellier prepares to leave for the city, where he will do business for a week. He gives Edna some money and says goodbye to the children. A few days later Edna receives presents from him in the mail—fruits and candies. As she shares these with her friends, they agree "Mr. Pontellier was the best husband in the world."

Analysis

Edna's "awakening" to her true self is not a sudden realization of her individuality but rather a slow-growing sensation marked by milestones—smaller awakenings that culminate in a greater awareness of self. This chapter describes the first of several such moments. It follows a literal sleep and a literal awakening. Edna is sleeping when her husband returns from Klein's hotel, and he becomes upset that she isn't listening fully as he speaks. It doesn't occur to him to be attentive to her needs—he notices only that she isn't being attentive to his. In a mean-spirited maneuver he finds a reason for her to get out of bed, and he harasses her about it until she obeys.

It's clear her husband has treated her similarly on other occasions, but this time she reacts differently. She feels hurt and understands on an emotional level that she is being oppressed. In time this internal knowledge will have an external effect. For now it is simply a dim awareness, and Edna's life mostly returns to normal the following day.

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