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The Awakening | Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

Madame Ratignolle walks back to her cottage with Robert as Edna stays at the beach; she asks Robert to "let Mrs. Pontellier alone" because she "might make the unfortunate blunder of taking you seriously." He becomes defensive, but Madame Ratignolle persists, noting most people allow his flirtations only because they know he isn't serious. Robert mentions Alcée Arobin, who is known to have affairs with married women, to show that he is harmless in contrast. He also mentions that he is more afraid of taking her seriously himself.

Robert notices people coming back from the beach, but Edna and her children are not among them. He returns to the main house, settles in a seat by the window, and chats with his mother as she sews. Madame Lebrun tries to get Victor's attention as he prepares to drive off, but he can't hear her, to her great annoyance.

Analysis

Madame Ratignolle responds to Edna's confidences by telling Robert to leave Edna alone. It is clear Edna's words have made Madame Ratignolle uneasy; she can see Edna is interested in more than a passing flirtation. She attempts to intervene before the situation gets out of hand. From her perspective she is helping. This shows her absolute commitment to social conventions: "Madame Ratignolle had spoken what she believed to be the law and the gospel." In defending his own behavior, Robert brings up a man who is known to have affairs with married women to show he is harmless in contrast. However, the mention of Alcée Arobin here foreshadows the affair that will later take place between Edna and Alcée as well as the difference. For all his flirtation, Robert has no intention of getting involved with a married woman.

After this awkward conversation, Robert visits his mother at the Lebrun house, and a new character is introduced: Robert's younger brother, Victor. The irresponsible Victor helps readers better understand Robert's need to play the role of the more mature, responsible brother. This is important in understanding Robert's reasons for refusing to enter into a sexual relationship with Edna later in the novel.

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