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The Awakening | Chapter 36 | Summary



Edna is at a local garden cafe having a quiet meal when Robert unexpectedly enters the garden gate. They are both surprised, and she invites him to share her food. She asks him why he's been avoiding her, and he begs her not to force him to make excuses. He tells her, "You seem to be forcing me into disclosures which can result in nothing." Nevertheless they spend time together in the garden as Robert smokes a cigar, and then they go back to the pigeon house. Edna goes to wash her face and hands, and when she comes back she kisses him. He holds her and confesses that he loves her. They kiss again, and Robert tells her he didn't want to admit he was in love with her because she was another man's wife. He wishes she were free and could be his wife instead. But Edna laughs at the idea that she would be anyone's wife, saying "I am no longer one of Mr. Pontellier's possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose." Robert is slightly shocked at this.

Suddenly Edna is summoned to Madame Ratignolle's house—Madame Ratignolle is "unwell." Edna asks Robert to wait for her while she is gone.


This chapter contains the novel's climax, as Edna and Robert finally declare their love for one another. Over the past several days Robert has been avoiding Edna and she has begun avoiding public places, so their meeting at the garden cafe is even more coincidental than their unexpected meeting at Mademoiselle Reisz's apartment. In the garden Robert tries to maintain a conversation about benign matters, such as the tasty coffee. Edna is so frank with him about her real feelings that he feels she is forcing him to admit that he loves her. Such an admission would be futile, he believes. But back at the pigeon house she finally overcomes his resistance by taking the initiative in a physical relationship. Her bold statement "I give myself where I choose" is a game changer, and it is left to the reader's imagination what might have happened if Edna were not called away by her promise to be with Madame Ratignolle during the birth of her child. Perhaps Robert and Edna would have begun a sexual affair. Perhaps Robert would have made a quick exit, unable to accept her offer of a relationship without becoming his "possession." Edna doesn't get to find out.

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