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The Awakening | Quotes


The parrot and the mockingbird were the property of Madame Lebrun, and they had the right to make all the noise they wished. Mr. Pontellier had the privilege of quitting their society when they ceased to be entertaining.

Narrator, Chapter 1

The parrot and the mockingbird symbolize the novel's women; they are caged and have little ability to move. In contrast Léonce Pontellier has the freedom to come and go as he pleases.


In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The mother-women ... idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals.

Narrator, Chapter 4

In Edna Pontellier's time women are viewed as motherly by nature and lauded as angelic, holy creatures. Edna is a mother but not a natural mother, or mother-woman, and this puts her at odds with society.


In short, Mrs. Pontellier was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her.

Narrator, Chapter 6

As Edna "awakens" she begins to have a stronger sense of herself, inside and out. She feels more confident in the world because she knows who she is and what is important to her.


But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, tangled, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult!

Narrator, Chapter 6

Edna's awakening is likened to a rebirth, to the creation of a new world. It's no wonder she feels confused and emotionally unbalanced. Even though this is not Edna's real "beginning," or birth, it does represent the beginning of a new way of life for her—a new way of being a woman.


At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which questions.

Narrator, Chapter 7

Since an early age Edna has realized her life is split in two parts. Her actions are dictated by society and its expectations and conventions, but her inner life is her own. Because Edna experiences freedom in her internal life, she comes to want this freedom in her actions as well.


But the very passions themselves were aroused within her soul, swaying it, lashing it, as the waves daily beat upon her splendid body. She trembled, she was choking, and the tears blinded her.

Narrator, Chapter 9

When Edna hears Mademoiselle Reisz play piano, her emotions overwhelm her. Mademoiselle Reisz's music represents the work of a true artist who has given up everything for her art. The music moves Edna as no music has done before.


A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given her to control the working of her body and her soul.

Narrator, Chapter 10

After her first successful swim Edna feels in control of both her physical and emotional selves. This is a new sensation for her, since up until now she has lived subject to the control of external influences.


The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.

Mademoiselle Reisz, Chapter 27

Edna tells Alcée Arobin the advice Mademoiselle Reisz gave her: to feel for her wings. Mademoiselle Reisz understands the artist's struggle for independence and wishes Edna well, but she is also realistic about the internal cost of success.


I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only something which I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.

Edna Pontellier, Chapter 17

When Edna tells Madame Ratignolle she would give up anything for her children except herself, she is referring to her identity as a human—an identity she's just now starting to discover. She says she would die for them but not give up this inner self.


Good-by—because I love you.

Robert Lebrun, Chapter 39

These are Robert's parting words to Edna, left to her in a letter at the "pigeon house." While the letter confirms Robert's feelings for her, it also confirms his ideals and his commitment to a society to which she no longer belongs.

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