The Awakening | Study Guide

Kate Chopin

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The Awakening | Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

Madame Ratignolle, Edna, and Robert form a "congenial group" on the porch, although Edna and Robert seem to share something special: "occasional words, glances or smiles which indicated a certain advanced stage of intimacy and camaraderie." Robert's attention to Mrs. Pontellier is unsurprising since he's long been known as a man who cozies up to a different woman every summer: widows, young women, married women. Robert semiseriously notes he once had a passion for Madame Ratignolle. Edna is slightly perplexed by his joking and grateful he seems more earnest with her.

Edna begins to create a portrait of Madame Ratignolle, and Robert appears entranced by her art, resting his head on her arm at times. Edna gently rebuffs his affection. The portrait does not turn out well, and Edna crumples it up before having her children take her art supplies inside.

Madame Ratignolle begins to pack up her supplies, and, slightly delayed by a fainting spell, heads toward her own lodgings. Robert invites Edna for a swim, and though she is uncertain at first she agrees. They set off together for the beach.

Analysis

This chapter develops the idea that Robert's relationship with Edna is different from relationships he's had with other women. The dialogue makes it clear that Robert is a bit of a flirt and moves from crush to crush in a playful and harmless way. His antics are well known, and he admits to them. This perhaps clarifies why Mr. Pontellier seems unconcerned by the time Robert and Edna spend together. Indeed Robert's behavior with Edna shows signs of a conventional flirtation. His interest in her art seems contrived; he is "giving forth little ejaculatory expressions of appreciation in French." He keeps putting his head on her arm as if he is so caught up in her sketch he doesn't notice what he's doing.

However, Edna definitely wants more from the relationship. She's gratified that he treats her more like a friend than a crush. She begins to assert herself in the relationship, defining its terms rather than let Robert define them: when he shows "thoughtless" affection she pushes his head away.

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