The Awakening Study Questions
Chapter 1: Question 7- What indications are there that the Pontellier marriage is strained?
The only time Leonce and Edna ever speak is in passing. He takes her for granted, and sees her as a small part of his orderly world.
Chapter 2: Question 3- What shift of point of view is evident in chapter 2?
Edna has the most distinct change in point of view in chapter 2. In chapter 1 you see Edna passing her time with a young man, but Mr. Pontellier isn’t worried and rather bored of his wife’s flirtatious actions. Mr. Pontellier pushes away his two children and leaves his wife to her own devices, not caring if she is flirting with another man or not. But in chapter 2, Edna has settled into more of a family routine that is calm and settled, the only issue is that it’s not with her husband but rather the young man she has a crush on.
Chapter 4: Question 1- Describe the unusual nature of the relationship between Edna and her children.
The relationship that Edna has with her children isn’t that of the traditional sense. Edna doesn’t show much interest in her children, and they have gotten use to not going to her when they need help. The children have learned that they will have to take care of themselves with little help from a nurse. Edna doesn’t show any outward displays of affection towards her children. She is not a mother and doesn’t want to be.
Chapter 5: Question 2- What is the difference between Robert’s present attentions to Edna and his past attentions to Adele Ratignolle?
The difference between Roberts present attention with Edna and his past attention with Adele is that Adele never took Robert seriously, while Edna does. Edna isn’t comfortable with Roberts actions towards her. When he leans his head on her arm not once but twice, she can’t help but feel discomfort towards him. She’s in a situation that she never wanted to be in, but one that she was expected to be in.
Chapter 7: Question 5- What do you learn about Edna as a person, given the reasons for her marriage to Leonce?
Edna has had fantasies of love, but she has been disappointed in some way when it comes to her marriage with Leonce. She only married him because her family expected her to, not because she chose to. Although she knew that this was a practical decision, she had a rebellious streak when it came to her marriage. She knows she must walk this path, idly, aimlessly, unthinking, and unguided.
Chapter 10: Question 3- How does Edna respond to swimming successfully for the first time? What happens that can be considered symbolism or foreshadowing?
The entire summer Edna attempted swimming but was never successful. She had several instructors, but no success. The night she swims for the first time successfully she is overjoyed, and feels a sense of freedom and power with it. She ends up swimming to far out, and suddenly the possibility of deaths overcomes her before she returns to the shore. This could symbolize the danger of straying to far away from the path.
Chapter 14: Question 1- What is Léonce’s reaction when Edna does not return with the others? What does this show you about their marriage?
He begins to worry about her, but then is reassured of her safety by Adele. After that he leaves for Klein’s to discuss business. The fact that he shows little concern for the absence of his wife proves that he is very indifferent about what she does.
Chapter 17: Question 3- What is the purpose of Edna’s Tuesday at home? How does this change after she returns from Grand Isle, and how does this fit into the theme of rebellion?
The Tuesday at home is a social convention, a time to receive visitors of social and business importance. A few weeks after returning from the Grand Isle Edna decides to stop receiving visitors with no explanation, other than I simply felt like going out, and I went out. After following this custom for six years, she decides to rebel against the demands of society and do what she wants to do.
Chapter 22: Question 1- How do the actions and comments of Leonce and Doctor Mandelet illustrate the following theme: that men cannot understand women?
Leonce complains to the doctor that Edna has some sort of notion in her head concerning the eternal rights of women. He also explains to the doctor that him and Edna haven’t slept together in some time. The doctor blames the possibility of pseudo-intellectual women for Edna’s recent behavior. When the doctor proposes the idea of a possible genetic defect, Leonce reassures him the he checked Edna’s family lineage before he married her. Both men are patronizing and seeing women as strange creatures who are moody and whimsical. Neither man appears to understand Edna and what she is going through.
Chapter 30: Question 3- Describe the setting for the dinner, the table, the furnishings, and the overall atmosphere. What does this tell the reader about Edna’s decision to leave?
The table is covered in yellow satin lace cloth, with large candles burning softly under yellow silk shades. There was something extremely gorgeous about that evening, luxurious dining chairs replaced the usual stiff ones, the gleam of gold everywhere. This type of elegance is what Edna will give up when she moves around the corner.
Chapter 31: Question 1- What are Edna’s duel feelings as she and Alcee clean up after everyone leaves?
Edna was very closed off during this time and does not feel like talking. She does what is necessary to close up the house and get to her small house where she will be living. On her way to is physically aware of Alcee’s presence.
Chapter 39: Question 8- How is Edna’s removal of her clothes as she walks down to the beach symbolic?
Edna removing her clothing symbolizes the casting off of society’s restrictions to achieve freedom. She first removes her clothes and puts on a bathing suit, but before she gets into the water she removes the bathing suit. Feeling like some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world it has never known. This begins Edna’s final steps towards her soul’s freedom.