Course Hero. "The Awakening Study Guide." Course Hero. 7 Feb. 2017. Web. 5 May 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Awakening/>.
Course Hero. (2017, February 7). The Awakening Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 5, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Awakening/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "The Awakening Study Guide." February 7, 2017. Accessed May 5, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Awakening/.
Course Hero, "The Awakening Study Guide," February 7, 2017, accessed May 5, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Awakening/.
Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 38 from Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening.
Doctor Mandelet, who had attended the birth, walks Edna home, and tells her that she should not have been at the birth; she has clearly reacted negatively to the event. She dismisses his concern. He then asks after her husband and their plans together, and she admits to him that she is not interested in being told what to do, not by a husband or even her own children. The doctor asks her to confide in him, saying it is safe to do so. But Edna says she doesn't feel like confiding in anyone.
When she gets to her house she sits for a moment on her porch, anticipating finding Robert within and caressing him. But when she goes inside he is not there. He has left a note: "I love you. Good-by—because I love you." Feeling lightheaded, Edna stretches out on the sofa and stays there until morning, unable to sleep.
Although Edna's explanation of her troubles is confusing and scattered, Doctor Mandelet seems to understand it perfectly when he echoes Edna's unvoiced "revolt" against the "ways of Nature" (Chapter 37). On their walk he notes that the illusions of youth seem like "a provision of Nature; a decoy to secure mothers for the race." He is wise enough to know that not all women are cut out to be good mothers, but Nature doesn't care about whether a mother is motherly or not; it wants children. Framed this way, Edna's struggle becomes not just against society and its rules but against Nature itself, which has conspired against her. She has children and has an emotional attachment to them, but she also resents them and wishes to be free of familial burdens. Her "inward life" never included children; they were part of the "outward existence which conforms."
Robert is Edna's one bright hope as she considers this final, terrible conflict between her inner and outer selves. She focuses on the pleasure and excitement of finding him waiting for her, and what will follow. His note is a crushing blow.