Lebanese University – English Department
“American Literature II”
Professor: Dr. Atif Faddul – Student: Marie-Rose Zeenny
Session 1- Thursday November 01, 2007
► Course Overview: The course continues the survey of American Literature started in
American Literature I. It aims at introducing students to the variety and richness of American
Literature from the late 19th century to the present time. Representative writings (poetry, fiction
and drama) of major literary figures of the period will be read and analyzed.
The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Vol. C, D, E, 6th edition / Vol. 2, 5th edition
► Course Requirements:
- Regular attendance and class participation
- One oral presentation
- One term-paper (12-18 typewritten pages)
- Optional Mid-Year exam
- Final exam
1- American Literature 1865 – 1914:
a) Long short story “Daisy Miller” by Henry James
b) Novel The Awakening by Kate Chopin
2- American Literature Between the Wars 1914-1945
A- Modernist Poetry:
a) Robert Frost (1874-1963)
i. “Mending Wall”
ii. “Home Burial”
b) Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
i. “Sunday Morning”
ii. “The Snow Man”
c) Marianne Moore (1887-1972)
i. “A Grave”
d) William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
i. “Portrait of a Lady”
ii. “The Ivy Crown”
iii. “The Dance”
B- Modernist Fiction:
a) Novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
b) Short Story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961).
3- American Literature since 1945
A) Post-modernist Poetry written by the marginal groups
a. Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)
i. “At the Fish houses”
ii. “Questions of Travel”
iii. “In the Waiting Room”
b. Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)
i. “A Supermarket in California”
ii. “To Aunt Rose”
c. John Ashbery (b. 1927)
d. Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
i. “Lady Lazarus”
ii. “The Applicant”
B) Post-modernist Fiction
a. “Good Country People” by Flannery O‟Connor (1925-1964)
b. “Cathedral” by Raymond Carven (1938-1988)
c. “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker (b. 1944)
C) Post-modernist Drama
a. “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)
I- From the beginning – 1865
We have two surveys of American Literature
II- 1865 – till the present time
We will read all kinds of poetry, but mainly fiction and poems.
I- American Literature 1865 – 1914 [Vol. C]
The period is divided into 3 sub-periods: II- American Literature 1914 – 1945 [Vol. D]
III- American Literature since 1945 [Vol. E]
American history is very short. Emigration to America started in the 17th Century. European
started to emigrate for different reasons:
1- For wealth
2- To escape political and religious persecution
The emigration was slow at the beginning; they first settled mostly on the Eastern coast [New
England]. In 1776 when America became independent, there were only 13 colonies or states. All
of them fought a war of independence against England and became independent. Georges
Washington was the first American president after the independence. Later in the 18th Century
they wrote down the American Constitution which was a federal system of constitution in the
sense that they had a central government and a local one for each state. Each state had a
governor. They agreed on a certain system and they had two systems – Parliament & Senators.
As far as senators are concerned, all states are represented equally and it became then the United
States of America. They were moving westward and expanding towards the west discovering
new territory and new states. It took them a very long time up to the third half of the nineteenth
century to reach California. In the meantime, they fought wars in Mexico, Europe before
America was established.
► Historical Background (1865-1914):
The 4-year civil war that lasted between 1861 and 1865 had among its principal causes, the issue
of slavery – considered one of the hottest issues of the American history – which the northern
industrialized states wanted to abolish but not the southern ones as African Negro slaves
comprised the majority of the laborers in the agricultural south. Americans took many black
people from Africa to America as slaves [17th – 18th Century and on]. The slaves were abused,
tortured and treated like animals. They were sold on boats. As a result, America experienced a
civil war between the Northern and the Southern states. It was an important event because the
Northern states won and America took the shape it had now, but had the Southern states won
America would have taken another shape. Legalized slavery ended with the defeat of the
southern states and the union remained united.
After 1865 although Americans suffered greatly from this civil war economically, but it seems
that America‟s economy prospered after the war. American territory and industry expanded
westward as a result of the Civil War. There was a mad frenzy / passion to go westward to
California and the coast because of a phenomenon called “The Gold Rush” in search of gold,
fame and fortune. People who were able to reach the Western part [California] tried to convince
others that the west is the place of wealth and gold. Some found it while others did not and the
gap between the rich and the poor grew wider. Immigration from other countries grew as did the
cities and populations, especially from the influx of former farmers becoming city dwellers /
residents. America went from an agrarian society to an industrialized and urban one. People were
uprooted / deracinated and began losing their former cultures, traditions and family values.
Mark Twain (1835-1910), a vital writer of this period, went to the west to search for the gold,
but he failed. He wrote a book The Gilded Age – an age of more prosperity for the rich and more
social problems with more poor people in slums [more children & women workers]. In this
period, women and black people started to be aware of their problems and fought for their rights.
We find similarities between this period in America and the development in the 19th C. Europe.
► The Impact of these Economic Developments on Literature:
Working conditions, with trade unions not yet powerful, became unbearable both in America as
well as England and the rest of Europe. A new type of literature arises called Realism in works
of fiction. Such realistic literature in 19th century France was evident in the works of Honoré de
Balzac (1799-1850) and Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) and in England in the works of Charles
Dickens (1812-1870); these writers dealt with social problems. The label of the movement is
then called REALISM. It is literature that is concerned with reality and social problems
concerned with the poor. It rises to depict reality as it is. In other words, they tried to be faithful
to reality. Some of the novels are documentary of the social conditions of that period and they
are read more in history or cultural studies courses, but some of them are not documentary
because the artistic side of them is shown. Consequently, such works lasted more.
Samuel Clemens under the pseudonym Marc Twain (1835-1910) was one of the major writers
and humorists of the period. He wrote a very influential novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn that was very important for both its themes/content and form which were similar to other
realistic novels. The theme of a corrupt society, especially on matters of slavery is constantly
repeated in the story. It is written in the Vernacular language – language of the people of that
period and a characteristic of realism in writing. It is narrated from the perspective of a child, but
many critics consider it one of the greatest works written in American literature. He wrote many
important novels such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and was mainly concerned with the
outcast, the poor; he gave us aspects of the American culture to draw back the mistakes in the
American society – giving examples of this society. Edith Wharton (18 -19 ) dealt more with
the middle & upper class and talked about their social problems.
Realism was the movement of the era, but a school of EXTREME REALISM called
NATURALISM originated and best represented in the works of France‟s Emile Zola (1840-
1902) and heavily influenced by Darwin‟s Theory of Evolution. Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
had proposed that man was not the creation of God but had come about through a process of
evolution and that life is a long struggle in which only the strongest survive. These views
impacted on Westerners‟ views of man with some using it to justify their abusive power and rule
over others. Man was then seen as an animal ruled by instinct. The behavior of human being is
the result of environment, the result of some inherited characteristics as if we are tuned in a
certain way because of an environment. There is no much way for free will in determinism.
Determinism is a key term with no space for choice or free will in the process.
Naturalists highlighted life‟s ugly aspects and were very pessimistic about man‟s place and
future; they held a gloomy image of the human condition in general. They were ready to shock
the reader when they described the ugly side of reality. For instance, some of them consider that
animals are better fitted to life than humans. A child animal will not touch something hot
instinctively, because according to them animals are instinctively more protected than humans.
Jack London (1876-1916) a Naturalist believed that animals with their instinctive behavior could
better protect themselves than humans. Although man was more rational, he could not avoid war
and destruction. He refers continuously to the theory of survival of the fittest in his dog stories.
In his story, “How to build a fire,” a man with his dog are trying to reach a mountain‟s summit in
a very cold weather, but the dog warningly barks to his master to go back while his master insists
on going ahead and as he tried building a fire, he died leaving the dog to care for itself.
Another writer in this trend is Stephen Crain (1871-1900) wrote about hope in his story The
Open Boat (1898). This was about some men‟s sturdy struggle against the elements of nature in
an open small boat that was caught in the midst of a weavy stormy sea and how nature was
indifferent to their fate, teasing them with birds flying overhead and teaching them not to expect
help. The whole story is about their struggling and their suffering. However, there is a hopeful
note in the feeling of comradeship they had when fighting together and which gave them hope to
continue their struggle until the shore is reached and only one of them dies.
William Dean Howells (1837-1920) writer and critic, was the central Naturalist figure in his
time although not so appreciated today. He was the best writer of documentary realism and was
concerned with the social problems of his own days. His famous novel Rise of Solace Laphan is
the best known. He was the most influential literary force.
Henry James (1843-1916) also a realist writer wrote about real life but used very formal
language and an elaborate style; he spent his life between America and parts of Europe. One of
his major interests was to depict the life of Americans in Europe and the clash between their
culture and that of the Europeans. Some Americans were noisy and did not have the manners
while Europeans were famous for their manners. When Americans were in Europe, they weren‟t
behaving properly. On the other hand, one of the positive points is that Americans were depicted
as spontaneous, raw, innocent, outgoing, adventurous and curious. In this sense, Henry James
wrote a short story “Daisy Miller” in which both Americans and Europeans living in Europe
were critical of her behavior. We have discussed the mainstreams of this period. Although the
dominant trend in this period was realism, there were many writers who emphasized the values
of their own geographical regions. Writers from the South for example were still emphasizing
the values of the countryside. There were also a number of women writers dealing with feminist
issues such as the status and the rights of women. We had also regional writers like Kate Chopin
who was concerned with the “Europeanism versus Americanism” theme. The last part tells us
that not only fiction dealt with such problems, but also other types of prose works flourish.
Psychology, sociology & anthropology works dealt with social problems. Some black people
were mentioned; some were ready to assimilation while others wanted to stick to their identity.
Session 2- Thursday November 08, 2007
Henry James (1843-1916)
Henry James was the younger brother of William James (1842-1910), American philosopher
and psychologist, who developed the philosophy of pragmatism. His father, an intellectual,
interested in arts, literature and philosophy wanted his children to have good education. He had
been taking the family often to Europe to pick up on its culture and traditions, because
Americans, at that time, believed that Europe was a better place for culture and education. As a
result of his travels and living abroad, Henry James believed that the Europeans in comparison to
Americans had more culture, history, art and literature as Americans had little culture on which
to build. Most of his novels and short stories dealt with the comparisons between the European
and American cultures for Europeans living and traveling in America as well as Americans
living and traveling in Europe. James presented Europeans as tied to old traditions, extensively
cultured, masters of the art of etiquette and conservative in manners. Americans on the other
hand, were depicted as spontaneous, raw, innocent, outgoing, adventurous, uncultured and
lacking the mastery of manners. He was an American writer of fiction, travel essays, short stories
and a literary critic. His books are collected in hundred volumes. James devoted his life to his art.
He was a good observer of life, people and culture. As an expatriate having been educated in
London, Paris and Geneva and having lived most of his life in Europe, he became a British
citizen one year prior to his death because America was reluctant in joining Britain in WWI.
“Daisy Miller” deals with this „Europeanism versus Americanism‟ theme.
Henry James was influenced by both English and French novelists as Gustave Flaubert (1821-
1880) and Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850). Russian writers also influenced his style. He was
considered as self-educated by his reading, traveling, meeting various people and by observing.
James‟s work is characterized by leisurely pacing and subtle delineation of character rather that
by dramatic incident or complicated plots. His major writings, highly sensitive examples of the
objective psychological novel, deal with the world of leisure and sophistication he had grown to
know intimately in Europe.
According to Leon Adel, one of his major critics, James‟ works were divided into three periods:
1. In this first period, James‟ main concern was Americans in Europe and Europeans in
America, comparing and contrasting European culture and American culture. His novel The
American is a good example of this period. It counts the story of a rich, uneducated American
who was cheated by American painters selling him imitations for high prices. He did not
even know how to propose to a European girl. His short story “Daisy Miller” fits within this
period; it is the first short story that made James famous. He also wrote one of his best novels
Portrait of a lady considered more sophisticated than The American.
2. In this second period, he experienced with diverse forms:
a. It dealt with the social and political current of the 1870s and 1880s.
b. It dealt with the writings for the theater and some short stories talked about the writer in
society with the relationship between the artist and society and a few deal with the artist
and the problems faced in a society unappreciative of his works.
c. Henry James‟ other topics in other works were political and psychological. He wrote
about obsessed and haunted men and women. The Turn of the Screw is an example.
3. In this 3rd period, he returned to the theme of Americans in Europe with a more sophisticated
style and an objective way in which the writer does not interfere. He also contributed to the
theory & criticism of the novel having written several essays on the art of the novel. He
wrote French Poets and Novelists, The Art of Fiction and The Art of the Novel that led to the
theory of writing novels. The American Scene (1907), pictured the profound changes in the
American culture in the late 19th and early 20th century; a period called the age of mistake.
“Daisy Miller” by Henry James (1878)
The American, Daisy and her mother and young brother Randolph and other Americans are
vacationing for the summer at a luxury hotel for tourists in Vevey, Switzerland. The first setting
is then in Vevey, Switzerland in a very luxurious hotel where we see all kinds of tourists. The
scenery around is very beautiful. There is emphasis on luxury.
One of the hotels at Vevey, however, is famous, even classical, being distinguished from many of its
upstart neighbors by an air both of luxury and of maturity. In this region, in the month of June, American
travelers are extremely numerous; it may be said, indeed, that Vevey assumes at this period some of the
characteristics of an American watering place. There are sights and sounds which evoke a vision, an
echo, of Newport and Saratoga. There is a flitting hither and thither of "stylish" young girls, a rustling of
muslin flounces, a rattle of dance music in the morning hours, a sound of high-pitched voices at all times.
You receive an impression of these things at the excellent inn of the "Trois Couronnes" and are
transported in fancy to the Ocean House or to Congress Hall.
The first character to be introduced is Frederick Winterbourne, a very symbolic name given to an
American living in the center of conservative and moralistic Puritanism, Geneva Switzerland that
is very important to the story. His name is an indication of his cold character. He is visiting with
his snobbish aunt, Mrs. Costello that suffers from headaches every two days and who is very
condescending towards the Millers that she considers nouveaux-riches from an industrial
background and of a lower social standing. She objects to the familiarity of the Millers with their
hired courier, Eugenio. Mrs. Costello‟s own children avoid her. Winterbourne, who feels
obligated to visit his aunt, is the subject of rumors that he is seeing an older foreign woman.
He had come from Geneva the day before by the little steamer, to see his aunt, who was staying at the
hotel—Geneva having been for a long time his place of residence. But his aunt had a headache—his aunt
had almost always a headache—and now she was shut up in her room, smelling camphor, so that he was
at liberty to wander about. He was some seven-and-twenty years of age; when his friends spoke of him,
they usually said that he was at Geneva "studying." When his enemies spoke of him, they said—but, after
all, he had no enemies; he was an extremely amiable fellow, and universally liked. What I should say is,
simply, that when certain persons spoke of him they affirmed that the reason of his spending so much time
at Geneva was that he was extremely devoted to a lady who lived there—a foreign lady—a person older
than himself. Very few Americans—indeed, I think none—had ever seen this lady, about whom there were
some singular stories. But Winterbourne had an old attachment for the little metropolis of Calvinism; he
had been put to school there as a boy, and he had afterward gone to college there—circumstances which
had led to his forming great many youthful friendships.
The second character to be introduced is Randolph, Daisy‟s brother. He is a naughty boy
carrying at all times a stick hitting everything and everyone on his way with it. The boy started a
conversation with Winterbourne asking him a lump of sugar, but Winterbourne told him that he
might lose his teeth. His blame was on Europe that he is losing his teeth anyway. The boy‟s role
in the story is to give much information about his family and especially about his sister Daisy.
At last he finished his coffee and lit a cigarette. Presently a small boy came walking along the path—an
urchin of nine or ten. The child, who was diminutive for his years, had an aged expression of
countenance, a pale complexion, and sharp little features. He was dressed in knickerbockers, with red
stockings, which displayed his poor little spindle-shanks; he also wore a brilliant red cravat. He carried
in his hand a long alpenstock, the sharp point of which he thrust into everything that he approached—the
flowerbeds, the garden benches, the trains of the ladies' dresses. In front of Winterbourne he paused,
looking at him with a pair of bright, penetrating little eyes. "Will you give me a lump of sugar?"
Winterbourne had immediately perceived that he might have the honor of claiming him as a fellow
countryman. "Take care you don't hurt your teeth," he said, paternally. "I haven't got any teeth to hurt.
They have all come out. I have only got seven teeth. My mother counted them last night, and one came out
right afterward. She said she'd slap me if any more came out. I can't help it. It's this old Europe. It's the
climate that makes them come out. In America they didn't come out. It's these hotels.‖ "I can't get any
candy here—any American candy. American candy's the best candy."
In Geneva, at that time, a young man is not allowed to speak to a young woman, but at Vevey
this is quite acceptable. Upon his encounter with Daisy, he did not know, because of his
conservatism, how to approach her. On the other hand, Daisy is an outgoing, outspoken,
innocent, naive and daring young girl who is very far from being conservative. Winterbourne
expected her to be shy but she wasn‟t. He was constantly spending all of his time observing and
analyzing her that by the end, he fails in winning her, because his approach was rational more
than being emotional. Daisy is growing up on her own like a wild flower without any parental
guidance. The father is absent and the mother is very passive.
In Geneva, as he had been perfectly aware, a young man was not at liberty to speak to a young unmarried
lady except under certain rarely occurring conditions; but here at Vevey, what conditions could be better
than these?—a pretty American girl coming and standing in front of you in a garden. This pretty
American girl, however, on hearing Winterbourne's observation, simply glanced at him; she then turned
her head and looked over the parapet, at the lake and the opposite mountains. He wondered whether he
had gone too far, but he decided that he must advance farther, rather than retreat. While he was thinking
of something else to say, the young lady turned to the little boy again.
He was ceasing to be embarrassed; for he had begun to perceive that she was not in the least
embarrassed herself. There had not been the slightest alteration in her charming complexion; she was
evidently neither offended nor flattered. If she looked another way when he spoke to her, and seemed not
particularly to hear him, this was simply her habit, her manner. Yet, as he talked a little more and pointed
out some of the objects of interest in the view, with which she appeared quite unacquainted, she gradually
gave him more of the benefit of her glance; and then he saw that this glance was perfectly direct and
unshrinking. It was not, however, what would have been called an immodest glance, for the young girl's
eyes were singularly honest and fresh. They were wonderfully pretty eyes; and, indeed, Winterbourne had
not seen for a long time anything prettier than his fair countrywoman's various features—her complexion,
her nose, her ears, her teeth.
Winterbourne knew more about Daisy from Randolph, her brother who gave him her real full
name being Annie Miller. Her father is a rich businessman in America.
She told him that they were going to Rome for the winter—she and her mother and Randolph. She asked
him if he was a "real American"; she shouldn't have taken him for one; he seemed more like a German.
She told him she was from New York State—"if you know where that is." Winterbourne learned more
about her by catching hold of her small, slippery brother and making him stand a few minutes by his side.
"Tell me your name, my boy," he said. "Randolph C. Miller," said the boy sharply. "And I'll tell you her
name"; and he leveled his alpenstock at his sister. "You had better wait till you are asked!" said this
young lady calmly. "I should like very much to know your name," said Winterbourne. "Her name is Daisy
Miller!" cried the child. "But that isn't her real name; that isn't her name on her cards." "It's a pity you
haven't got one of my cards!" said Miss Miller. "Her real name is Annie P. Miller," the boy went on. "Ask
him HIS name," said his sister, indicating Winterbourne. But on this point Randolph seemed perfectly
indifferent; he continued to supply information with regard to his own family. "My father's name is Ezra
B. Miller," he announced. "My father ain't in Europe; my father's in a better place than Europe."
Winterbourne imagined for a moment that this was the manner in which the child had been taught to
intimate that Mr. Miller had been removed to the sphere of celestial reward. But Randolph immediately
added, "My father's in Schenectady. He's got a big business. My father's rich, you bet!"
Daisy is not very consistent in her conversation moving from one subject to another. She told
Winterbourne all the details of their trip. She appeared to Winterbourne a very sweet and
agreeable girl, but at the same time she will be like a puzzle to him.
She wanted to know why I didn't give Randolph lessons—give him 'instruction,' she called it. I guess he
could give me more instruction than I could give him. He's very smart." It was many years since he had
heard a young girl talk so much. It might have been said of this unknown young lady, who had come and
sat down beside him upon a bench that she chattered. She was very quiet; she sat in a charming, tranquil
attitude; but her lips and her eyes were constantly moving. She had a soft, slender, agreeable voice, and
her tone was decidedly sociable.
She gave Winterbourne a history of her movements and intentions and those of her mother and brother, in
Europe, and enumerated, in particular, the various hotels at which they had stopped. "That English lady
in the cars," she said—"Miss Featherstone—asked me if we didn't all live in hotels in America. I told her I
had never been in so many hotels in my life as since I came to Europe. I have never seen so many—it's
nothing but hotels." But Miss Miller did not make this remark with a querulous accent; she appeared to
be in the best humor with everything.
Typically she misses the social life in America. He was charmed by her beauty and thought that
she might be a pretty American girl. He was puzzled and perplexed always questioning her type.
At one moment, he says that she is innocent, but at another moment he thinks of her as a flirt.
The only thing I don't like," she proceeded, "is the society. There isn't any society; or, if there is, I don't
know where it keeps itself. Do you? I suppose there is some society somewhere, but I haven't seen
anything of it. I'm very fond of society, and I have always had a great deal of it. I don't mean only in
Schenectady, but in New York. I used to go to New York every winter. In New York I had lots of society.
Poor Winterbourne was amused, perplexed, and decidedly charmed. He had never yet heard a young girl
express herself in just this fashion; never, at least, save in cases where to say such things seemed a kind
of demonstrative evidence of a certain laxity of deportment. And yet was he to accuse Miss Daisy Miller
of actual or potential inconduite, as they said at Geneva? He felt that he had lived at Geneva so long that
he had lost a good deal; he had become dishabituated to the American tone. Never, indeed, since he had
grown old enough to appreciate things, had he encountered a young American girl of so pronounced a
type as this.
Certainly she was very charming, but how deucedly sociable! Was she simply a pretty girl from New York
State? Were they all like that, the pretty girls who had a good deal of gentlemen's society? Or was she
also a designing, an audacious, an unscrupulous young person? Winterbourne had lost his instinct in this
matter and his reason could not help him. Miss Daisy Miller looked extremely innocent. Some people had
told him that, after all, American girls were exceedingly innocent; and others had told him that, after all,
they were not. He was inclined to think Miss Daisy Miller was a flirt—a pretty American flirt. He had
never, as yet, had any relations with young ladies of this category. He had known, here in Europe, two or
three women—persons older than Miss Daisy Miller, and provided, for respectability's sake, with
husbands—who were great coquettes—dangerous, terrible women, with whom one's relations were liable
to take a serious turn. But this young girl was not a coquette in that sense; she was very unsophisticated;
she was only a pretty American flirt.
Daisy with little education and not culture at all, talks to Winterbourne as if she had known him
all her life and tells him all about her life and what she expects out of life. The Millers do not
care about museums and such things but are very interested in parties. Daisy is always well
dressed and Winterbourne has a hard time figuring her out. Winterbourne found her very
attractive and was reluctant in inviting Daisy to go with him to the Chateau de Chillon, but she
was very at ease with it and accepted to go without any sort of hesitation. However, her behavior
"Have you been to that old castle?" asked the young girl, pointing with her parasol to the far-gleaming
walls of the Chateau de Chillon.
She didn't rise, blushing, as a young girl at Geneva would have done; and yet Winterbourne, conscious
that he had been very bold, thought it possible she was offended. "With your mother," he answered very
respectfully. But it seemed that both his audacity and his respect were lost upon Miss Daisy Miller. "I
guess my mother won't go, after all," she said. "She doesn’t like to ride round in the afternoon.
The mother, Mrs. Miller cannot control her 9-year old son, Randolph and relies on Eugenio the
courier to help her. Winterbourne liked Daisy; he was attracted to her and thought she looks like
a princess. The whole story is a portrait of Daisy as seen through the eyes of Winterbourne.
"Oh, well, we'll go some day," said Miss Miller. And she gave him a smile and turned away. She put up
her parasol and walked back to the inn beside Eugenio. Winterbourne stood looking after her; and as she
moved away, drawing her muslin furbelows over the gravel, said to himself that she had the tournure of a
Session 3- Thursday November 15, 2007
At this stage, we are introduced to a new lady Mrs. Costello, Winterbourne‟s aunt, who lives
now in Vevey – Switzerland. It seems her own children don‟t care for her, but Winterbourne, a
religious man somehow, asks for her. She is a very snobbish woman with high nose. Here we
notice that even in America, there are different social classes [hierarchy]. She warns
Winterbourne against mixing with the lower class Millers‟ [nouveaux riches], because they don‟t
stick to the standards according to her. She was proud that she was distinguished in the states as
being one of the highest classes. According to her, Daisy is pretty, but common,
Mrs. Costello was a widow with a fortune; a person of much distinction. She had a long, pale face, a high
nose, and a great deal of very striking white hair. Her nephew, who had come up to Vevey expressly to
see her, was therefore more attentive than those who, as she said, were nearer to her. He had imbibed at
Geneva the idea that one must always be attentive to one's aunt. She admitted that she was very exclusive;
but, if he were acquainted with New York, he would see that one had to be. And her picture of the
minutely hierarchical constitution of the society of that city, which she presented to him in many different
lights, was, to Winterbourne's imagination, almost oppressively striking. He immediately perceived, from
her tone, that Miss Daisy Miller's place in the social scale was low.
"I am afraid you don't approve of them," he said. "They are very common," Mrs. Costello declared. "The
young girl is very pretty," said Winterbourne in a moment. "Of course she's pretty. But she is very
Mrs. Costello doesn‟t approve of their mixing with the courier Eugenio. She was even terrified
that Daisy agreed to go alone with Winterbourne to the Chateau de Chillon, but eventually this
displeases him. He is perplexed; sometimes he admires Daisy and at other times he cannot make
up his mind. He spends his time analyzing her.
"Oh, the mother is just as bad! They treat the courier like a familiar friend—like a gentleman. I shouldn't
wonder if he dines with them. Very likely they have never seen a man with such good manners, such fine
clothes, so like a gentleman. He probably corresponds to the young lady's idea of a count. He sits with
them in the garden in the evening. I think he smokes." "Ah, you are cruel!" said the young man. "She's a
very nice young girl." "You don't say that as if you believed it," Mrs. Costello observed.
"She is completely uncultivated," Winterbourne went on. "But she is wonderfully pretty, and, in short, she
is very nice. To prove that I believe it, I am going to take her to the Chateau de Chillon." "You two are
going off there together? I should say it proved just the contrary. How long had you known her, may I
ask, when this interesting project was formed? You haven't been twenty-four hours in the house."
"I have known her half an hour!" said Winterbourne, smiling. "Dear me!" cried Mrs. Costello. "What a
dreadful girl!" "I haven't the least idea what such young ladies expect a man to do. But I really think that
you had better not meddle with little American girls that are uncultivated, as you call them. "Then, my
dear Frederick," said Mrs. Costello, "I must decline the honor of her acquaintance. I am an old woman,
but I am not too old, thank Heaven, to be shocked!"
It seems that Mrs. Costello‟s granddaughter does the same thing as Daisy in America. Daisy
wasn‟t so different from them. This shows the hypocritical side of Mrs. Costello.
"But don't they all do these things—the young girls in America?" Winterbourne inquired. Mrs. Costello
stared a moment. "I should like to see my granddaughters do them!" she declared grimly. This seemed to
throw some light upon the matter, for Winterbourne remembered to have heard that his pretty cousins in
New York were "tremendous flirts." If, therefore, Miss Daisy Miller exceeded the liberal margin allowed
to these young ladies, it was probable that anything might be expected of her. He was impatient to see her
again, and he was vexed with himself that, by instinct, he should not appreciate her justly.
When he told Daisy about his aunt, she insisted on meeting with her and be exclusive like her.
Winterbourne was giving excuses that his aunt suffers from headaches and thus she cannot meet
with her, but Daisy knew the truth and is hurt to find out that the aunt does not want to meet her.
"I want to know her ever so much. I know just what YOUR aunt would be; I know I should like her. She
would be very exclusive. I like a lady to be exclusive; I'm dying to be exclusive myself. Well, we ARE
exclusive, mother and I. We don't speak to everyone—or they don't speak to us. I suppose it's about the
same thing. Anyway, I shall be ever so glad to know your aunt."
Winterbourne was interested in her, perplexed but still he wanted to know her better. He found
that Daisy is easy-going and very attractive. He is perplexed to hear from Daisy that Mrs. Miller
does not like seeing her daughter with gentlemen since he felt that the mother was not very
vigilant, but to Daisy it is natural to have boyfriends. He keeps analyzing Daisy and her family.
"I am afraid your mother doesn't see you," said Winterbourne. "Or perhaps," he added, thinking, with
Miss Miller, the joke permissible—"perhaps she feels guilty about your shawl." "Oh, it's a fearful old
thing!" the young girl replied serenely. "I told her she could wear it. She won't come here because she
sees you." "Ah, then," said Winterbourne, "I had better leave you." "Oh, no; come on!" urged Miss Daisy
Miller. "I'm afraid your mother doesn't approve of my walking with you."
Miss Miller gave him a serious glance. "It isn't for me; it's for you—that is, it's for HER. Well, I don't
know who it's for! But mother doesn't like any of my gentlemen friends. She's right down timid. She
always makes a fuss if I introduce a gentleman. But I DO introduce them—almost always. If I didn't
introduce my gentlemen friends to Mother," the young girl added in her little soft, flat monotone, "I
shouldn't think I was natural."
The mother is now introduced; her appearance is being described – as being very rich [expensive
clothes, diamond]. Daisy says that her mother doesn‟t sleep and has no power over her family.
She is very passive always suffering from indigestion and lack of sleep. Winterbourne was here
commenting on the mother which is a different type from European mothers especially in
Geneva where mothers are very protective having power over their children.
Her mother was a small, spare, light person, with a wandering eye, a very exiguous nose, and a large
forehead, decorated with a certain amount of thin, much frizzled hair. Like her daughter, Mrs. Miller was
dressed with extreme elegance; she had enormous diamonds in her ears. So far as Winterbourne could
observe, she gave him no greeting—she certainly was not looking at him. Winterbourne observed to
himself that this was a very different type of maternity from that of the vigilant matrons who massed
themselves in the forefront of social intercourse in the dark old city at the other end of the lake.
Daisy was asking Winterbourne about the trip in the boat which he didn‟t expect. Even
Winterbourne didn‟t want Daisy to be very intimate with the courier.
"Don't you want to take me out in a boat?" "Well, I want you to take me out in a boat!" Daisy repeated.
"It is eleven o'clock, madam," said a voice, with a foreign accent, out of the neighboring darkness; and
Winterbourne, turning, perceived the florid personage who was in attendance upon the two ladies. He
had apparently just approached. "Oh, Eugenio," said Daisy, "I am going out in a boat!" Eugenio bowed.
"At eleven o'clock, mademoiselle?‖ "I am going with Mr. Winterbourne—this very minute." "Do tell her
she can't," said Mrs. Miller to the courier. "I think you had better not go out in a boat, mademoiselle,"
Eugenio declared. Winterbourne wished to Heaven this pretty girl were not so familiar with her courier;
but he said nothing. The courier looked for a moment at Winterbourne—the latter thought he was
smiling—and then, solemnly, with a bow, "As mademoiselle pleases!" he said.
Daisy accuses Winterbourne for being cold and was hoping that he would create a fuss when she
asked him to take her to Chillon at night while Winterbourne was analyzing all the time the
mystery of her sudden familiarity and her caprices, but he likes to go out with her. Before the
Chillon visit, Daisy was puzzlingly spontaneous and mysterious to Winterbourne. He assumed
that she was not happy with the way he had approached her and that that she was an easy person
to deal with. She wasn‟t at all embarrassed when he went to the hotel to pick her up, but she
wanted to be seen going out with a gentleman. She was very well-dressed. Winterbourne is a
man of imagination, a type of person who analyzes as he looks at her. She wanted lively
adventures in a more interesting way. She was not consistent in her conversation; she would
move from one topic to another.
"Oh, I hoped you would make a fuss!" said Daisy. "I don't care to go now." "I myself shall make a fuss if
you don't go," said Winterbourne. "That's all I want—a little fuss!" And the young girl began to laugh
again. "Mr. Randolph has gone to bed!" the courier announced frigidly. "Oh, Daisy; now we can go!"
said Mrs. Miller. Daisy turned away from Winterbourne, looking at him, smiling and fanning herself.
"Good night," she said; "I hope you are disappointed, or disgusted, or something!" He looked at her,
taking the hand she offered him. "I am puzzled," he answered.
Winterbourne stood looking after them; he was indeed puzzled. He lingered beside the lake for a quarter
of an hour, turning over the mystery of the young girl's sudden familiarities and caprices.
Two days afterward he went off with her to the Castle of Chillon. He waited for her in the large hall of the
hotel, where the couriers, the servants, the foreign tourists, were lounging about and staring.
Winterbourne was a man of imagination and, as our ancestors used to say, sensibility
People continued to look at her a great deal, and Winterbourne took much satisfaction in his pretty
companion's distinguished air. He had been a little afraid that she would talk loud, laugh overmuch, and
even, perhaps, desire to move about the boat a good deal.
Although Daisy appears innocent, she comments on his graveness. Once at the castle, she was
more interested in the talking than with the historical significance of the place. Lacking
consistency, she jumps from one subject to another and noticing that winterbourne was
knowledgeable; she asked him if he would tutor her brother. She became angry when he told her
that he would soon be leaving Geneva and that a woman was waiting there for him. She asked
him to visit her when he would be in Rome, but she was upset when he tells her that he would do
so as his aunt is there especially that she wants him to come for her. Mrs. Costello thought that
Daisy was not a decent person for having gone off alone with Winterbourne.
"What on EARTH are you so grave about?" she suddenly demanded, fixing her agreeable eyes upon
Winterbourne's. "Am I grave?" he asked. "I had an idea I was grinning from ear to ear." "You look as if
you were taking me to a funeral. If that's a grin, your ears are very near together." "Should you like me to
dance a hornpipe on the deck?" "Pray do, and I'll carry round your hat. It will pay the expenses of our
journey." "I never was better pleased in my life," murmured Winterbourne. She looked at him a moment
and then burst into a little laugh. "I like to make you say those things! You're a queer mixture!"
But he saw that she cared very little for feudal antiquities and that the dusky traditions of Chillon made
but a slight impression upon her. Miss Miller's observations were not remarkable for logical consistency;
for anything she wanted to say she was sure to find a pretext. She found a great many pretexts in the
rugged embrasures of Chillon for asking Winterbourne sudden questions about himself—his family, his
previous history, his tastes, his habits, his intentions—and for supplying information upon corresponding
points in her own personality.
"You don't mean to say you are going back to Geneva?" "It is a melancholy fact that I shall have to return
to Geneva tomorrow." "Well, Mr. Winterbourne," said Daisy, "think you're horrid!" "Oh, don't say such
dreadful things!" said Winterbourne—"just at the last!"
"The last!" cried the young girl; "I call it the first. I have half a mind to leave you here and go straight
back to the hotel alone." And for the next ten minutes she did nothing but call him horrid. Poor
Winterbourne was fairly bewildered; no young lady had as yet done him the honor to be so agitated by
the announcement of his movements. His companion, after this, ceased to pay any attention to the
curiosities of Chillon or the beauties of the lake; she opened fire upon the mysterious charmer in Geneva
whom she appeared to have instantly taken it for granted that he was hurrying back to see. She seemed to
him, in all this, an extraordinary mixture of innocence and crudity.
It sounded very distinctly, at last, in her telling him she would stop "teasing" him if he would promise her
solemnly to come down to Rome in the winter. "That's not a difficult promise to make," said
Winterbourne. "My aunt has taken an apartment in Rome for the winter and has already asked me to
come and see her." "I don't want you to come for your aunt," said Daisy; "I want you to come for me."
And this was the only allusion that the young man was ever to hear her make to his invidious kinswoman.
He declared that, at any rate, he would certainly come. After this Daisy stopped teasing him.
Winterbourne took a carriage, and they drove back to Vevey in the dusk; the young girl was very quiet.
Part III: The second setting: Rome. Daisy was looking for someone to have fun with him.
Americans living in Rome distanced themselves from her for they didn‟t approve of her
behavior. Mrs. Walker is introduced. The aunt tells Winterbourne that Daisy has many friends
interested in her money. People are gossiping about Daisy according to Mrs. Costello that she
had a relationship with twelve Italian fortune hunters. When Daisy was visiting Mrs. Walker,
another American expatriate, Winterbourne popped in and this upset Daisy, because he had not
visited her first when he arrived in Rome. Daisy and her nouveaux riches family, live in a fancy
place to show off their money. To Winterbourne, Daisy and her family are not dreadful but
innocent yet to Costello they are bad no question.
"They seem to have made several acquaintances, but the courier continues to be the most intime. The
young lady, however, is also very intimate with some third-rate Italians, with whom she rackets
about in a way that makes much talk. Bring me that pretty novel of Cherbuliez's—Paule Mere—and
don't come later than the 23rd." "The girl goes about alone with her foreigners. As to what happens
further, you must apply elsewhere for information. She has picked up half a dozen of the regular
Roman fortune hunters, and she takes them about to people's houses. When she comes to a party she
brings with her a gentleman with a good deal of manner and a wonderful mustache." "And where is
the mother?" "I haven't the least idea. They are very dreadful people." Winterbourne meditated a
moment. "They are very ignorant—very innocent only. Depend upon it they are not bad." "They are
hopelessly vulgar," said Mrs. Costello. "Whether or no being hopelessly vulgar is being 'bad' is a
question for the metaphysicians. They are bad enough to dislike, at any rate; and for this short life
that is quite enough."
The news that Daisy Miller was surrounded by half a dozen wonderful mustaches checked
Winterbourne's impulse to go straightway to see her. He had, perhaps, not definitely flattered himself
that he had made an ineffaceable impression upon her heart, but he was annoyed at hearing of a
state of affairs so little in harmony with an image that had lately flitted in and out of his own
meditations; the image of a very pretty girl looking out of an old Roman window and asking herself
urgently when Mr. Winterbourne would arrive. "I told you I should come, you know," Winterbourne
rejoined, smiling. "Well, I didn't believe it," said Miss Daisy. "I am much obliged to you," laughed
the young man. "You might have come to see me!" said Daisy. "I arrived only yesterday." "I don't
believe that!" the young girl declared. Winterbourne turned with a protesting smile to her mother,
but this lady evaded his glance, and, seating herself, fixed her eyes upon her son. "We've got a bigger
place than this," said Randolph. "It's all gold on the walls." Mrs. Miller turned uneasily in her chair.
"I told you if I were to bring you, you would say something!" she murmured. "I told YOU!" Randolph
exclaimed. "I tell YOU, sir!" he added jocosely, giving Winterbourne a thump on the knee. "It IS
Winterbourne met Daisy by chance in Mrs. Walker‟s place. Randolph is always volunteering
information. It seems the mother is obsessed with illness. Mrs. Miller is always talking about
how she is always taking good care of her health and about her American doctor. Dr. Davis was
trying to cure her from her indigestion. She was praising him for he was the greatest in the place
they used to live in America. Both the mother and Randolph are not happy in Europe.
"She's got the dyspepsia," said Randolph. "I've got it too. Father's got it. I've got it most!" This
announcement, instead of embarrassing Mrs. Miller, seemed to relieve her. "I suffer from the liver,"
she said. "I think it's this climate; it's less bracing than Schenectady, especially in the winter season.
I don't know whether you know we reside at Schenectady. I was saying to Daisy that I certainly
hadn't found any one like Dr. Davis, and I didn't believe I should. Oh, at Schenectady he stands first;
they think everything of him. He has so much to do, and yet there was nothing he wouldn't do for me.
He said he never saw anything like my dyspepsia, but he was bound to cure it. I'm sure there was
nothing he wouldn't try. He was just going to try something new when we came off. Mr. Miller
wanted Daisy to see Europe for herself. But I wrote to Mr. Miller that it seems as if I couldn't get on
without Dr. Davis. At Schenectady he stands at the very top; and there's a great deal of sickness
there, too. It affects my sleep."
"But we have seen places," she resumed, "that I should put a long way before Rome." And in reply to
Winterbourne's interrogation, "There's Zurich," she concluded, "I think Zurich is lovely; and we
hadn't heard half so much about it." "The best place we've seen is the City of Richmond!" said
Randolph. "He means the ship," his mother explained. "We crossed in that ship. Randolph had a
good time on the City of Richmond." "It's the best place I've seen," the child repeated. "Only it was
turned the wrong way." The young man asked Mrs. Miller how she was pleased with Rome. "Well, I
must say I am disappointed," she answered. "We had heard so much about it; I suppose we had
heard too much. But we couldn't help that. We had been led to expect something different."
It seems Daisy was the only one happy in Europe [Rome] for she got many acquaintances there
→ parties. Daisy turned after to Winterbourne and talked to him that he was nasty not to come to
see her first. Winterbourne thinks that American women are demanding. Daisy does not care to
visit historical places there nor in Winterbourne‟s stiff way of talking. She wants him more
deliberate. Daisy simply wants to meet people and have fun. Mr. Giovanelli is now introduced in
the story. Daisy starts going out alone with him at night and once, Mrs. Walker followed her in
her carriage to bring her back and to warn her against catching Roman fever (malaria). Mrs.
Walker was concerned about Daisy she was American like her for the sake of the reputation of
Americans. She did not listen to her. Winterbourne followed her and Giovanelli on the walk,
because he was concerned about her health and more about her behavior.
Winterbourne expressed the hope that her daughter at least found some gratification in Rome and
she declared that Daisy was quite carried away. "It's on account of the society—the society's
splendid. She goes round everywhere; she has made a great number of acquaintances. Of course she
goes round more than I do. I must say they have been very sociable; they have taken her right in. And
then she knows a great many gentlemen. Oh, she thinks there's nothing like Rome. Of course, it's a
great deal pleasanter for a young lady if she knows plenty of gentlemen." By this time Daisy had
turned her attention again to Winterbourne. "I've been telling Mrs. Walker how mean you were!" the
young girl announced. "And what is the evidence you have offered?" asked Winterbourne, rather
annoyed at Miss Miller's want of appreciation of the zeal of an admirer who on his way down to
Rome had stopped neither at Bologna nor at Florence, simply because of a certain sentimental
impatience. He remembered that a cynical compatriot had once told him that American women—the
pretty ones, and this gave largeness to the axiom—were at once the most exacting in the world and
the least endowed with a sense of indebtedness. "Why, you were awfully mean at Vevey," said Daisy.
"You wouldn't do anything. You wouldn't stay there when I asked you." "My dearest young lady,"
cried Winterbourne, with eloquence, "have I come all the way to Rome to encounter your
reproaches?" "Just hear him say that!" said Daisy to her hostess, giving a twist to a bow on this
lady's dress. "Did you ever hear anything so quaint?"
"It's an intimate friend of mine—Mr. Giovanelli," said Daisy without a tremor in her clear little voice
or a shadow on her brilliant little face. Mrs. Walker was silent a moment; she gave a rapid glance at
Winterbourne. "I shall be glad to see Mr. Giovanelli," she then said. "He's an Italian," Daisy pursued
with the prettiest serenity. "He's a great friend of mine; he's the handsomest man in the world—
except Mr. Winterbourne! He knows plenty of Italians, but he wants to know some Americans. He
thinks ever so much of Americans. He's tremendously clever. He's perfectly lovely!"
"Alone, my dear—at this hour?" Mrs. Walker asked. The afternoon was drawing to a close—it was
the hour for the throng of carriages and of contemplative pedestrians. "I don't think it's safe, my
dear," said Mrs. Walker. "Neither do I," subjoined Mrs. Miller. "You'll get the fever, as sure as you
live. Remember what Dr. Davis told you!" "I'm not going alone; I am going to meet a friend." Your
friend won't keep you from getting the fever," Mrs. Miller observed. "My dear young friend," said
Mrs. Walker, taking her hand pleadingly, "don't walk off to the Pincio at this hour to meet a beautiful
Italian." "Well, he speaks English," said Mrs. Miller. "Gracious me!" Daisy exclaimed, "I don't dare
to do anything improper. There's an easy way to settle it." She continued to glance at Winterbourne.
"The Pincio is only a hundred yards distant; and if Mr. Winterbourne were as polite as he pretends,
he would offer to walk with me!"
There is a foreshadowing of the ending when she said that they would walk provided they did
not catch the Roman fever. Daisy, one of the early feminists, said she didn‟t care what gentlemen
said about her and asked Winterbourne if he thought that Giovanelli was the right man for her.
His answer was no and that he felt that Giovanelli was an imitation of a gentleman, not a real
one. Mrs. Walker insisted that Daisy interrupt her walk and get into her carriage because she
should be going out on walks only with her own mother because people would start talking about
her. Daisy didn‟t care and didn‟t get into the carriage either but when she did ironically asked
Winterbourne whether she should or not and when he told her to get into the carriage, she didn‟t
listen. Winterbourne thought that Mrs. Walker had gone about it all wrong but she replied that
she had been earnest in trying to save her. Winterbourne defended Daisy as not knowing better
and that both he and Mrs. Walker had lived in Europe too long and had become conservative.
"Why haven't you been to see me?" asked Daisy. "You can't get out of that." "I have had the honor of
telling you that I have only just stepped out of the train." "You must have stayed in the train a good
while after it stopped!" cried the young girl with her little laugh. "I suppose you were asleep. You
have had time to go to see Mrs. Walker." "I knew Mrs. Walker—" Winterbourne began to explain.
"I know where you knew her. You knew her at Geneva. She told me so. Well, you knew me at Vevey.
That's just as good. So you ought to have come." She asked him no other question than this; she
began to prattle about her own affairs. "We've got splendid rooms at the hotel; Eugenio says they're
the best rooms in Rome. We are going to stay all winter, if we don't die of the fever; and I guess we'll
stay then. It's a great deal nicer than I thought; I thought it would be fearfully quiet; I was sure it
would be awfully poky. I was sure we should be going round all the time with one of those dreadful
old men that explain about the pictures and things. But we only had about a week of that, and now
I'm enjoying myself. I know ever so many people, and they are all so charming. The society's
extremely select. There are all kinds—English, and Germans, and Italians. I think I like the English
best. I like their style of conversation. But there are some lovely Americans. I never saw anything so
hospitable. There's something or other every day. There's not much dancing; but I must say I never
thought dancing was everything. I was always fond of conversation. I guess I shall have plenty at
Mrs. Walker's, her rooms are so small." When they had passed the gate of the Pincian Gardens, Miss
Miller began to wonder where Mr. Giovanelli might be. "We had better go straight to that place in
front," she said, "where you look at the view."
"I certainly shall not help you to find him," Winterbourne declared. "Then I shall find him without
you," cried Miss Daisy. "You certainly won't leave me!" cried Winterbourne. She burst into her little
laugh. "Are you afraid you'll get lost—or run over? But there's Giovanelli, leaning against that tree.
He's staring at the women in the carriages: did you ever see anything so cool?"
Winterbourne perceived at some distance a little man standing with folded arms nursing his cane. He
had a handsome face, an artfully poised hat, a glass in one eye, and a nosegay in his buttonhole.
Winterbourne looked at him a moment and then said, "Do you mean to speak to that man?"
The young girl looked at him more gravely, but with eyes that were prettier than ever. "I have never
allowed a gentleman to dictate to me, or to interfere with anything I do." "I think you have made a
mistake," said Winterbourne. "You should sometimes listen to a gentleman—the right one." [Daisy
was ahead of her time because of the feminist dimension although limited]
Daisy asks Winterbourne if her Italian friend Giovanelli is a real gentleman, but according to
him, Giovanelli is not a real one but an imitation. Winterbourne is then analyzing Giovanelli as
Daisy began to laugh again. "I do nothing but listen to gentlemen!" she exclaimed. "Tell me if Mr.
Giovanelli is the right one?" The gentleman with the nosegay in his bosom had now perceived our two
friends, and was approaching the young girl with obsequious rapidity. He bowed to Winterbourne as well
as to the latter's companion; he had a brilliant smile, an intelligent eye; Winterbourne thought him not a
bad-looking fellow. But he nevertheless said to Daisy, "No, he's not the right one."
Session 4- Thursday November 29, 2007
According to Winterbourne, Giovanelli speaks English very well hoping to marry a rich
American girl. On one hand, he speaks politely but nonsensically. He is sophisticated having
good manners. On the other hand, he is a third rate artist because he is a penny-line writer.
Moreover, Winterbourne is wondering how Daisy is not able to distinguish between a genuine
and a false gentleman. He is puzzled by Daisy; he keeps analyzing her behavior and he cannot
really decide what kind of girl she is.
Mr. Giovanelli, who spoke English very cleverly—Winterbourne afterward learned that he had practiced
the idiom upon a great many American heiresses—addressed her a great deal of very polite nonsense; he
was extremely urbane, and the young American, who said nothing, reflected upon that profundity of
Italian cleverness which enables people to appear more gracious in proportion as they are more acutely
disappointed. "He is not a gentleman," said the young American; "he is only a clever imitation of one. He
is a music master, or a penny-a-liner, or a third-rate artist. Damn his good looks!" Mr. Giovanelli had
certainly a very pretty face; but Winterbourne felt a superior indignation at his own lovely fellow
countrywoman's not knowing the difference between a spurious gentleman and a real one. [Winterbourne
is good at talking but only for the sake of it. Europeans do not show their disappointment and Americans
are not good at hiding their feelings.]
"Nevertheless," Winterbourne said to himself, "a nice girl ought to know!" And then he came back to the
question whether this was, in fact, a nice girl. Would a nice girl, even allowing for her being a little
American flirt, make a rendezvous with a presumably low-lived foreigner?[Winterbourne began to
analyze her. He is confused whether she is a nice girl or a flirt.].
Winterbourne was vexed that the young girl, in joining her amoroso, should not appear more impatient of
his own company, and he was vexed because of his inclination. It was impossible to regard her as a
perfectly well-conducted young lady; she was wanting in a certain indispensable delicacy. [What puzzled
Winterbourne is that Daisy wanted them both.]
Winterbourne concludes that Daisy is a combination of daring and innocence.
That she should seem to wish to get rid of him would help him to think more lightly of her, and to be able
to think more lightly of her would make her much less perplexing. But Daisy, on this occasion, continued
to present herself as an inscrutable combination of audacity and innocence.
Mrs. Walker is after Daisy in her carriage to make her leave Giovanelli and go back with her,
because she is worried about her reputation. She told Daisy that it is not the custom to walk with
a man if she is not engaged to him. The American spirit at this time was that Americans in
Europe wanted to save other Americans. Mrs. Walker is even blaming Daisy‟s mother for not
being able to follow her or at least to keep her home. However, Daisy says ironically that she is
not a child to dictate on her what to do but she thinks she is mature enough to take her own
Mrs. Walker was flushed; she wore an excited air. "It is really too dreadful," she said. "That girl must not
do this sort of thing. She must not walk here with you two men. Fifty people have noticed her." "It's a pity
to let the girl ruin herself!" "She is very innocent," said Winterbourne. "She's very crazy!" cried Mrs.
Walker. "Did you ever see anything so imbecile as her mother? After you had all left me just now, I could
not sit still for thinking of it. It seemed too pitiful, not even to attempt to save her. I ordered the carriage
and put on my bonnet, and came here as quickly as possible. Thank Heaven I have found you!" "What do
you propose to do with us?" asked Winterbourne, smiling. "To ask her to get in, to drive her about here
for half an hour, so that the world may see she is not running absolutely wild, and then to take her safely
"It may be enchanting, dear child, but it is not the custom here," urged Mrs. Walker, leaning forward in
her victoria, with her hands devoutly clasped. "You should walk with your mother, dear," cried the lady
from Geneva, losing patience. "With my mother dear!" exclaimed the young girl. Winterbourne saw that
she scented interference. "My mother never walked ten steps in her life. And then, you know," she added
with a laugh, "I am more than five years old." "You are old enough to be more reasonable. You are old
enough, dear Miss Miller, to be talked about."
Daisy asks Winterbourne what to do whether to go back with Mrs. Walker or keep walking with
Giovanelli. She seems sarcastic, because she has already taken her decision. She even accuses
him of being „so stiff‟. Mrs. Walker is very concerned about Daisy to the point of crying when
Daisy refused to go back with her, but it seems Winterbourne didn‟t agree with Mrs. Walker‟s
harsh behavior towards Daisy.
"I don't think I want to know what you mean," said Daisy presently. "I don't think I should like it."
"Should you prefer being thought a very reckless ( )ﻣﺘﻬﻮﺭﺓgirl?" she demanded. "Gracious!" exclaimed
Daisy. She looked again at Mr. Giovanelli, and then she turned to Winterbourne. There was a little pink
flush in her cheek; she was tremendously pretty. "Does Mr. Winterbourne think," she asked slowly,
smiling, throwing back her head, and glancing at him from head to foot, "that, to save my reputation, I
ought to get into the carriage?" Winterbourne colored; for an instant he hesitated greatly. It seemed so
strange to hear her speak that way of her "reputation." But he himself, in fact, must speak in accordance
with gallantry. The finest gallantry, here, was simply to tell her the truth; and the truth, for Winterbourne,
as the few indications I have been able to give have made him known to the reader, was that Daisy Miller
should take Mrs. Walker's advice. He looked at her exquisite prettiness, and then he said, very gently, "I
think you should get into the carriage." Daisy gave a violent laugh. "I never heard anything so stiff! If this
is improper, Mrs. Walker," she pursued, "then I am all improper, and you must give me up. Goodbye; I
hope you'll have a lovely ride!" and, with Mr. Giovanelli, who made a triumphantly obsequious salute,
she turned away. Mrs. Walker sat looking after her, and there were tears in Mrs. Walker's eyes. "Get in
here, sir," she said to Winterbourne, indicating the place beside her.
Winterbourne is talking to Mrs. Walker about Daisy; he thinks that her earnestness wasn‟t
tolerable. However, what Daisy is doing in Rome, Italian young ladies will not do at that time
such as dancing all night or walking alone with men. To Mrs. Walker this is improper in Italy in
the 19th century, but Winterbourne is defending Daisy in one way or another asserting that she is
uncultivated and not trained to behave properly. Winterbourne is a thoughtful person; he is
balanced and knows that he and Mrs. Walker are very conservative in their view [because they
lived for long in Geneva] and this is why they are not able to value Daisy‟s behavior. He appears
as an objective person believing that things have changed and women behave differently now.
Mrs. Walker is advising Winterbourne not to walk or flirt with Daisy, but Winterbourne admits
that he likes Daisy and wants to continue the relationship with her.
Winterbourne was not in the best possible humor as he took his seat in Mrs. Walker's victoria. "That was
not clever of you," he said candidly, while the vehicle mingled again with the throng of carriages. "In
such a case," his companion answered, "I don't wish to be clever; I wish to be EARNEST!"
"What has she been doing?" "Everything that is not done here. Flirting with any man she could pick up;
sitting in corners with mysterious Italians; dancing all the evening with the same partners; receiving
visits at eleven o'clock at night. Her mother goes away when visitors come."
"The servants be hanged!" said Winterbourne angrily. "The poor girl's only fault," he presently added, "is
that she is very uncultivated."
Winterbourne was silent for some moments; then he said, "I suspect, Mrs. Walker, that you and I have
lived too long at Geneva!" And he added a request that she should inform him with what particular
design she had made him enter her carriage. "I wished to beg you to cease your relations with Miss
Miller—not to flirt with her—to give her no further opportunity to expose herself—to let her alone, in
short." "I'm afraid I can't do that," said Winterbourne. "I like her extremely."
Mrs. Walker studies and analyzes Americans living in Europe; she examines European society
and the effect of European life on Americans. It seems Mrs. Walker is like Winterbourne one
who observes and analyzes characters.
Mrs. Walker was one of those American ladies who, while residing abroad, make a point, in their own
phrase, of studying European society, and she had on this occasion collected several specimens of her
diversely born fellow mortals to serve, as it were, as textbooks.
Mrs. Walker‟s party:
Mrs. Walker organized a party and did not mind mixing up with the Millers. Mrs. Miller had
arrived alone as Daisy was still at home practicing a song with Giovanelli in anticipation of
being asked to sing by Mrs. Walker. The mother, unlike Daisy, is very timid; she does not know
how to behave in society. What is surprising in her behavior is that she talks of her daughter as if
she talks of a stranger.
Later Daisy arrives after eleven with Giovanelli, well-dressed looking very beautiful. Everyone
stops talking to contemplate her. However, Mrs. Walker told Winterbourne that Daisy is making
a spectacle out of herself. Giovanelli sang afterward without being asked to. Daisy would have
wanted to dance but there was no chance. Giovanelli would not act so if he was with an Italian
woman despite the fact that European women would act like Daisy but in secrecy. She claims
that ladies of this country don‟t know how to live and this is why she does not want to imitate
them when they should imitate her. She thought that every nice girl is a fearful flirt.
Winterbourne was jealous because he wanted to be her only flirt and this shows his hypocrisy.
When Winterbourne arrived, Daisy Miller was not there, but in a few moments he saw her mother come
in alone, very shyly and ruefully. Mrs. Miller's hair above her exposed-looking temples was more frizzled
than ever. As she approached Mrs. Walker, Winterbourne also drew near.
"You see, I've come all alone," said poor Mrs. Miller. "I'm so frightened; I don't know what to do. It's the
first time I've ever been to a party alone, especially in this country. "And does not your daughter intend to
favor us with her society?" demanded Mrs. Walker impressively. "Well, Daisy's all dressed," said Mrs.
Miller with that accent of the dispassionate, if not of the philosophic, historian with which she always
recorded the current incidents of her daughter's career.
"She got dressed on purpose before dinner. But she's got a friend of hers there; that gentleman—the
Italian—that she wanted to bring. They've got going at the piano; it seems as if they couldn't leave off.
Mr. Giovanelli sings splendidly. But I guess they'll come before very long," concluded Mrs. Miller
"This is most horrible!" said Mrs. Walker, turning away and addressing herself to Winterbourne. "Elle
s'affiche. It's her revenge for my having ventured to remonstrate with her. When she comes, I shall not
speak to her."
Daisy came after eleven o'clock; but she was not, on such an occasion, a young lady to wait to be spoken
to. She rustled forward in radiant loveliness, smiling and chattering, carrying a large bouquet, and
attended by Mr. Giovanelli. Everyone stopped talking and turned and looked at her. She came straight to
Mrs. Walker. "I'm afraid you thought I never was coming, so I sent mother off to tell you. I wanted to
make Mr. Giovanelli practice some things before he came; you know he sings beautifully, and I want you
to ask him to sing. This is Mr. Giovanelli.
He sang very prettily half a dozen songs, though Mrs. Walker afterward declared that she had been quite
unable to find out who asked him. It was apparently not Daisy who had given him his orders. "I am not
sorry we can't dance," Winterbourne answered; "I don't dance." "Of course you don't dance; you're too
stiff," said Miss Daisy. "I hope you enjoyed your drive with Mrs. Walker!" "No. I didn't enjoy it; I
preferred walking with you."
"He should not have talked about it at all," said Winterbourne; "he would never have proposed to a
young lady of this country to walk about the streets with him." "About the streets?" cried Daisy with her
pretty stare? "Where, then, would he have proposed to her to walk? The Pincio is not the streets, either;
and I, thank goodness, am not a young lady of this country. The young ladies of this country have a
dreadfully poky time of it, so far as I can learn; I don't see why I should change my habits for THEM."
"I am afraid your habits are those of a flirt," said Winterbourne gravely. "Of course they are," she cried,
giving him her little smiling stare again. "I'm a fearful, frightful flirt! Did you ever hear of a nice girl that
was not? But I suppose you will tell me now that I am not a nice girl." "You're a very nice girl; but I wish
you would flirt with me and me only," said Winterbourne.
Daisy implied that European married women flirt while Winterbourne said that flirting is an
American custom only. Daisy said that Giovanelli never comments on her behavior but speaks
nicely to her all the time. She resents Winterbourne advising her on what to do all the time and
never inviting her to a cup of tea. Mrs. Walker‟s rudeness to Daisy offended her and thus she was
puzzled for her indignation though Mrs. Miller did not even notice anything about the matter.
"Ah! thank you—thank you very much; you are the last man I should think of flirting with. As I have had
the pleasure of informing you, you are too stiff." "You say that too often," said Winterbourne. Daisy gave
a delighted laugh. "If I could have the sweet hope of making you angry, I should say it again." "Don't do
that; when I am angry I'm stiffer than ever. But if you won't flirt with me, do cease, at least, to flirt with
your friend at the piano; they don't understand that sort of thing here." "I thought they understood
nothing else!" exclaimed Daisy. "Not in young unmarried women." "It seems to me much more proper in
young unmarried women than in old married ones," Daisy declared. "Well," said Winterbourne, "when
you deal with natives you must go by the custom of the place. Flirting is a purely American custom; it
doesn't exist here. So when you show yourself in public with Mr. Giovanelli, and without your mother—"
"Gracious! poor Mother!" interposed Daisy. "Though you may be flirting, Mr. Giovanelli is not; he
means something else." "He isn't preaching, at any rate," said Daisy with vivacity. "And if you want very
much to know, we are neither of us flirting; we are too good friends for that: we are very intimate
friends." "Ah!" rejoined Winterbourne, "if you are in love with each other, it is another affair."
That little American flirts were the queerest creatures in the world. "Mr. Giovanelli, at least," she said,
giving her interlocutor a single glance, "never says such very disagreeable things to me." "It has never
occurred to Mr. Winterbourne to offer me any tea," she said with her little tormenting manner. "I have
offered you advice," Winterbourne rejoined. "I prefer weak tea!" cried Daisy, and she went off with the
brilliant Giovanelli. When Daisy came to take leave of Mrs. Walker, this lady conscientiously repaired
the weakness of which she had been guilty at the moment of the young girl's arrival. She turned her back
straight upon Miss Miller and left her to depart with what grace she might. Winterbourne was standing
near the door; he saw it all. Daisy turned very pale and looked at her mother, but Mrs. Miller was humbly
unconscious of any violation of the usual social forms. She appeared, indeed, to have felt an incongruous
impulse to draw attention to her own striking observance of them. "Good night, Mrs. Walker," she said;
"we've had a beautiful evening. You see, if I let Daisy come to parties without me, I don't want her to go
away without me." Daisy turned away, looking with a pale, grave face at the circle near the door;
Winterbourne saw that, for the first moment, she was too much shocked and puzzled even for indignation.
He on his side was greatly touched. "That was very cruel," he said to Mrs. Walker.
Winterbourne accuses Mrs. Walker of cruelty to treat Daisy in this way. He keeps visiting the
Millers at the hotel, but he always finds Daisy with different gentlemen. He then concludes that
Daisy will never be jealous it seems. Winterbourne is not decided about her; he is still analyzing
her fearing that she might be a light girl. It seems she likes him for she could tease him and give
him orders; overall she feels at ease with him.
Since Winterbourne was not to meet her in Mrs. Walker's drawing room, he went as often as possible to
Mrs. Miller's hotel. The ladies were rarely at home, but when he found them, the devoted Giovanelli was
always present. The unexpected in her behavior was the only thing to expect, but she seemed to him a girl
who would never be jealous. He had a pleasant sense that he should never be afraid of Daisy Miller. It
must be added that this sentiment was not altogether flattering to Daisy; it was part of his conviction, or
rather of his apprehension, that she would prove a very light young person. But she was evidently very
much interested in Giovanelli. She looked at him whenever he spoke; she was perpetually telling him to
do this and to do that; she was constantly "chaffing" and abusing him. She appeared completely to have
forgotten that Winterbourne had said anything to displease her at Mrs. Walker's little party.
Winterbourne is talking about Daisy with Mrs. Costello his aunt who believes the courier
Eugenio had introduced Giovanelli to the Millers in exchange for money. It seems Winterbourne
is also investigating about Giovanelli; he is a respectful lawyer, but not one of the great ones.
Winterbourne even feels that it is impossible for Giovanelli to gain the hope of marrying a girl
like Daisy. Not only Mrs. Costello or Mrs. Walker but all Americans in Rome are worried about
Daisy and gossiping about her. This is an anticipation of the disaster that is coming.
It was the courier probably who introduced him; and if he succeeds in marrying the young lady, the courier
will come in for a magnificent commission." "I don't believe she thinks of marrying him," said Winterbourne,
"and I don't believe he hopes to marry her." "You may be very sure she thinks of nothing. She goes on from day
to day, from hour to hour, as they did in the Golden Age [there was a period of the American history when
Americans rested for gold, got a lot of money and lived carelessly]. I can imagine nothing more vulgar. And at
the same time," added Mrs. Costello, "depend upon it that she may tell you any moment that she is 'engaged.'"
"The little Italian. I have asked questions about him and learned something. He is apparently a perfectly
respectable little man. I believe he is, in a small way, a cavaliere avvocato. But he doesn't move in what are
called the first circles. I think it is really not absolutely impossible that the courier introduced him. He is
evidently immensely charmed with Miss Miller. If she thinks him the finest gentleman in the world, he, on his
side, has never found himself in personal contact with such splendor, such opulence, such expensiveness as
this young lady's. And then she must seem to him wonderfully pretty and interesting. I rather doubt that he
dreams of marrying her. That must appear to him too impossible a piece of luck. He has nothing but his
handsome face to offer, and there is a substantial Mr. Miller in that mysterious land of dollars. Giovanelli
knows that he hasn't a title to offer. If he were only a count or a marchese! He must wonder at his luck, at the
way they have taken him up." "It is very true," Winterbourne pursued, "that Daisy and her mamma have not
yet risen to that stage of—what shall I call it?—of culture at which the idea of catching a count or a marchese
begins. I believe that they are intellectually incapable of that conception." "Ah! But the avvocato can't believe
it," said Mrs. Costello. Of the observation excited by Daisy's "intrigue," Winterbourne gathered that day at St.
Peter's sufficient evidence. A dozen of the American colonists in Rome came to talk with Mrs. Costello, who sat
on a little portable stool at the base of one of the great pilasters. [Daisy and her mother are not cultured and
don‟t know how to plan to entrap a high-ranked man.]
Winterbourne thinks that Daisy is very innocent, but placed in a cynical, corrupt & sophisticated society.
Daisy and Giovanelli sat next to a portrait of a pope called innocent; the pope‟s name is revealing and
symbolic implying her innocence. Winterbourne was shocked at Mrs. Miller‟s passiveness to Daisy‟s
behavior. Later, all Americans avoided her trying to prove that she is not the typical American girl and
wanted Europeans to see that they weren‟t like her but Winterbourne is always making up excuses for her.
Winterbourne was not pleased with what he heard, but when, coming out upon the great steps of the church, he
saw Daisy, who had emerged before him, get into an open cab with her accomplice and roll away through the
cynical streets of Rome, he could not deny to himself that she was going very far indeed. He felt very sorry for
her—not exactly that he believed that she had completely lost her head, but because it was painful to hear so
much that was pretty, and undefended, and natural assigned to a vulgar place among the categories of
disorder. He made an attempt after this to give a hint to Mrs. Miller. He met one day in the Corso a friend, a
tourist like himself, who had just come out of the Doria Palace, where he had been walking through the
beautiful gallery. His friend talked for a moment about the superb portrait of Innocent X by Velasquez which
hangs in one of the cabinets of the palace, and then said, "And in the same cabinet, by the way, I had the
pleasure of contemplating a picture of a different kind—that pretty American girl whom you pointed out to me
last week." In answer to Winterbourne's inquiries, his friend narrated that the pretty American girl—prettier
than ever—was seated with a companion in the secluded nook in which the great papal portrait was enshrined.
"I have noticed that they are very intimate," Winterbourne observed. "Oh, it seems as if they couldn't live
without each other!" said Mrs. Miller. "Well, he's a real gentleman, anyhow. I keep telling Daisy she's
engaged!" "And what does Daisy say?" "Oh, she says she isn't engaged. But she might as well be!" this
impartial parent resumed; "she goes on as if she was. But I've made Mr. Giovanelli promise to tell me, if SHE
doesn't. I should want to write to Mr. Miller about it—shouldn't you?" Winterbourne replied that he certainly
should; and the state of mind of Daisy's mamma struck him as so unprecedented in the annals of parental
vigilance that he gave up as utterly irrelevant the attempt to place her upon her guard. After this Daisy was
never at home, and Winterbourne ceased to meet her at the houses of their common acquaintances, because,
as he perceived, these shrewd people had quite made up their minds that she was going too far. They ceased to
invite her; and they intimated that they desired to express to observant Europeans the great truth that, though
Miss Daisy Miller was a young American lady, her behavior was not representative—was regarded by her
compatriots as abnormal.
According to Winterbourne, Daisy is childish and uncultivated but on the other hand she is trying to
dress up well in order to impress people. He was not quite sure that she is innocent; he started to
doubt her innocence. He was analyzing her eccentricities whether they arise naturally from the fact
that she is American or if it was peculiar to her. He kept going around after her, but she wanted him
to walk with someone fearing he will be lonesome.
Winterbourne wondered how she felt about all the cold shoulders that were turned toward her, and sometimes
it annoyed him to suspect that she did not feel at all. He said to himself that she was too light and childish, too
uncultivated and unreasoning, too provincial, to have reflected upon her ostracism, or even to have perceived
it. Then at other moments he believed that she carried about in her elegant and irresponsible little organism a
defiant, passionate, perfectly observant consciousness of the impression she produced. He was angry at
finding himself reduced to chopping logic about this young lady; he was vexed at his want of instinctive
certitude as to how far her eccentricities were generic, national, and how far they were personal. "Well," said
Daisy, "I should think you would be lonesome!" "Lonesome?" asked Winterbourne. "You are always going
round by yourself. Can't you get anyone to walk with you?" "I am not so fortunate," said Winterbourne, "as
Winterbourne is telling Daisy that Americans are gossiping about her. Daisy replied that they are not
really sincere in being worried about her claiming they are hypocritical. He then told her that her
mother believes she is engaged to Giovanelli. Daisy keeps telling him that she is not engaged to
Giovanelli, perhaps she cares for him. She expected to move him for he is “so stiff”.
"Every one thinks so—if you care to know," said Winterbourne. "Of course I care to know!" Daisy exclaimed
seriously. "But I don't believe it. They are only pretending to be shocked. They don't really care a straw what I
do. Besides, I don't go round so much." "Haven't you noticed anything?" Winterbourne asked. "I have noticed
you. But I noticed you were as stiff as an umbrella the first time I saw you." "You will find I am not so stiff as
several others," said Winterbourne, smiling. "How shall I find it?" "By going to see the others." "What will
they do to me?" "They will give you the cold shoulder‖. ―Since you have mentioned it," she said, "I AM
engaged." *** Winterbourne looked at her; he had stopped laughing. "You don't believe!" she added. He was
silent a moment; and then, "Yes, I believe it," he said. "Oh, no, you don't!" she answered. "Well, then – I am
not!" (It was eleven o'clock), Winterbourne approached the dusky circle of the Colosseum, and it recurred to
him, as a lover of the picturesque, that the interior, in the pale moonshine, would be well worth a glance. He
turned aside and walked to one of the empty arches, near which, as he observed, an open carriage – one of the
little Roman streetcabs – was stationed
He concluded that Daisy is a spoiled girl unworthy of his respect. He thinks now that she is evil
pretending to be innocent. He warned her at the coliseum but she did not care. At this moment, he
blames Giovanelli since he is Italian for bringing her to such place – a nest of Malaria. Giovanelli
could not request to take her there; however, he was unable to convince her. Daisy believes she can
take pills from Eugenio and get protected. Winterbourne warns her to drive home as soon as possible
and Giovanelli agreed of this wise attitude.
The place had never seemed to him more impressive. As he stood there he began to murmur Byron's famous
lines, out of "Manfred". The historic atmosphere was there, certainly; but the historic atmosphere,
scientifically considered, was no better than a villainous miasma. Then he saw that two persons were stationed
upon the low steps which formed its base. One of these was a woman, seated; her companion was standing in
front of her. "Well, he looks at us as one of the old lions or tigers may have looked at the Christian martyrs!"
"Let us hope he is not very hungry," responded the ingenious Giovanelli. "He will have to take me first; you
will serve for dessert!" Winterbourne stopped, with a sort of horror, and, it must be added, with a sort of relief.
It was as if a sudden illumination had been flashed upon the ambiguity of Daisy's behavior, and the riddle had
become easy to read. She was a young lady whom a gentleman need no longer be at pains to respect. He stood
there, looking at her—looking at her companion and not reflecting that though he saw them vaguely, he
himself must have been more brightly visible. He felt angry with himself that he had bothered so much about
the right way of regarding Miss Daisy Miller. Then, as he was going to advance again, he checked himself, not
from the fear that he was doing her injustice, but from a sense of the danger of appearing unbecomingly
exhilarated by this sudden revulsion from cautious criticism. He turned away toward the entrance of the place,
but, as he did so, he heard Daisy speak again. "Why, it was Mr. Winterbourne! He saw me, and he cuts me!"
What a clever little reprobate [one who pursues evil] she was and how smartly she played at injured
innocence! Winterbourne had now begun to think simply of the craziness, from a sanitary point of view, of a
delicate young girl lounging away the evening in this nest of malaria. What if she WERE a clever little
reprobate? that was no reason for her dying of the perniciosa. "How long have you been here?" he asked
almost brutally. Daisy, lovely in the flattering moonlight, looked at him a moment. Then—"All the evening,"
she answered, gently. * * * "I never saw anything so pretty." "I am afraid," said Winterbourne, "that you will
not think Roman fever very pretty. This is the way people catch it. I wonder," he added, turning to Giovanelli,
"that you, a native Roman, should countenance such a terrible indiscretion."
We are then told that Daisy caught the fever and abruptly died. It seems her mother turned to be
efficient as a nurse and took care of her daughter in her sickness. In the end only and when Daisy
died and was buried in a Protestant cemetery, she left Winterbourne a message that she was not
engaged to Giovanelli. Giovanelli never visited her during her illness in fear of her mother‟s
reaction, but came to her funeral. He said that she had been innocent and would have never
married him. However, Winterbourne regretted the way he approached Daisy otherwise he could
be able to save her. Finally a reminder is given one more time; that is, Winterbourne was kept in
Europe not only for his studies but also because of a certain lady he is in a relationship with and
who lives in Geneva.
"I told the signorina it was a grave indiscretion, but when was the signorina ever prudent?" "I never was sick,
and I don't mean to be!" the signorina declared. "I don't look like much, but I'm healthy! I was bound to see
the Colosseum by moonlight; I shouldn't have wanted to go home without that; and we have had the most
beautiful time, haven't we, Mr. Giovanelli? If there has been any danger, Eugenio can give me some pills. He
has got some splendid pills." "I should advise you," said Winterbourne, "to drive home as fast as possible and
take one!" "What you say is very wise," Giovanelli rejoined. "I will go and make sure the carriage is at hand."
"DID you believe I was engaged, the other day?" she asked. "It doesn't matter what I believed the other day,"
said Winterbourne, still laughing. "Well, what do you believe now?" "I believe that it makes very little
difference whether you are engaged or not!" "I don't care," said Daisy in a little strange tone, "whether I have
Roman fever or not!" These people, a day or two later, had serious information to give: the little American flirt
was alarmingly ill. Winterbourne, when the rumor came to him, immediately went to the hotel for more news.
He found that two or three charitable friends had preceded him.
Winterbourne went often to ask for news of her, and once he saw Mrs. Miller, who, though deeply alarmed,
was, rather to his surprise, perfectly composed, and, as it appeared, a most efficient and judicious nurse.
"Daisy spoke of you the other day," she said to him. "Half the time she doesn't know what she's saying, but that
time I think she did. She gave me a message she told me to tell you. She told me to tell you that she never was
engaged to that handsome Italian. I am sure I am very glad; Mr. Giovanelli hasn't been near us since she was
taken ill. I thought he was so much of a gentleman; but I don't call that very polite! A lady told me that he was
afraid I was angry with him for taking Daisy round at night. Well, so I am, but I suppose he knows I'm a lady. I
would scorn to scold him. Anyway, she says she's not engaged. I don't know why she wanted you to know, but
she said to me three times, 'Mind you tell Mr. Winterbourne.' And then she told me to ask if you remembered
the time you went to that castle in Switzerland. But I said I wouldn't give any such messages as that. Only, if
she is not engaged, I'm sure I'm glad to know it."
Daisy's grave was in the little Protestant cemetery, in an angle of the wall of imperial Rome, beneath the
cypresses and the thick spring flowers. Winterbourne stood there beside it, with a number of other mourners, a
number larger than the scandal excited by the young lady's career would have led you to expect. Near him
stood Giovanelli, who came nearer still before Winterbourne turned away. Giovanelli was very pale: on this
occasion he had no flower in his buttonhole; he seemed to wish to say something. At last he said, "She was the
most beautiful young lady I ever saw, and the most amiable"; and then he added in a moment, "and she was
the most innocent."
Winterbourne looked at him and presently repeated his words, "And the most innocent?" "The most innocent!"
Winterbourne felt sore and angry. "Why the devil," he asked, "did you take her to that fatal place?" Mr.
Giovanelli's urbanity was apparently imperturbable. He looked on the ground a moment, and then he said,
"For myself I had no fear; and she wanted to go." "That was no reason!" Winterbourne declared. The subtle
Roman again dropped his eyes. "If she had lived, I should have got nothing. She would never have married me,
I am sure." "She would never have married you?" "For a moment I hoped so. But no. I am sure."
In the interval Winterbourne had often thought of Daisy Miller and her mystifying manners. One day he spoke
of her to his aunt—said it was on his conscience that he had done her injustice. "I am sure I don't know," said
Mrs. Costello. "How did your injustice affect her?" "She sent me a message before her death which I didn't
understand at the time; but I have understood it since. She would have appreciated one's esteem." "Is that a
modest way," asked Mrs. Costello, "of saying that she would have reciprocated one's affection?" Winterbourne
offered no answer to this question; but he presently said, "You were right in that remark that you made last
summer. I was booked to make a mistake. I have lived too long in foreign parts." Nevertheless, he went back to
live at Geneva, whence there continue to come the most contradictory accounts of his motives of sojourn: a
report that he is "studying" hard—an intimation that he is much interested in a very clever foreign lady.
Session 5- Thursday December 06, 2007
Daisy Miller is a portrait of a certain type of American women in her own days. Most of the
story is about the discussion of her character. She is a mixture of innocence and naivety, daring,
reckless and open. She is not sophisticated in manners or behavior, she is very spontaneous. She
has feminist characteristics but this side is not developed in the story.
From a historical biographical approach, Daisy is the victim of the clash between the American
and the European culture and the confrontation between them [historical]. We might relate it to
the life of the writer: how he experienced and examined both cultures. Daisy is like a flower; a
plant that was taken out of her original place and moved to another place. It might thus suffer
because of the new change. Therefore, Daisy might be the victim of this move because she was
not taught how to behave in her new environment.
An approach would be also thematic [moral philosophical]; it deals with the themes of the story.
One of the themes is the comparison / contrast between the European culture (tight to traditions,
sophistication of Manners and advanced artistic achievements) and the American culture (less
tight to tradition, less mannered, spontaneous and adventurous).
Although there are differences between European and American culture, we also find differences
within the American society. For instance, Mrs. Costello is an arrogant snobbish American
woman, originally rich. On the other hand, we have the nouveaux-riches „the Millers‟. This is
how we learn that America has different classes. Mrs. Walker and Winterbourne are in between;
they are conservative whereas Daisy is a less conservative American because of the difference in
generation and in background. America is then heterogeneous and not homogeneous.
We can discuss characterization through which this story can be best described as a character
portrait presenting to us a certain type of American woman of his days. This character is
contrasted with other characters like Winterbourne, Mrs. Costello and Mrs. Walker in order to be
highlighted. Winterbourne‟s approach to Daisy was that of an analyst, always observing; he took
her as a case study looking to her at distance and never committing with her emotionally. We
might blame him for her fall. He could have saved her life had he approached her differently.
Winterbourne might be a projection of Henry James since the latter was an observer of American
people & an analyst of their behavior in Europe. The approaches of the other American ladies are
also faulty. They criticized her and were not able to understand that difference of her character.
From a formalistic approach, we are concerned with the form and structure of the story.
The story has no climax and no suspense; it is rather simple and its ending is abrupt.
We can discuss the point of view that is how the story is narrated. The narrator, 3rd person, is
omniscient; he explains, comments & judges. Even though he sides with Winterbourne, he at
times sympathizes with Daisy. He uses many evaluative words [innocent, naïve, outspoken].
- Cultural (background of the story)
We can also discuss the setting: *Vevey – Switzerland
- Geographical (two places in Europe) *Rome - Italy
A feminist approach to this story would look into the position given to women and whether they
are given the chance to speak their mind or their role is eclipsed by men. The writer, being a
male, misrepresented women and thus feminism is not quite highlighted in this story. It seems
the writer did not approve of both extremes – the conservative and the liberal society. Daisy was
an independent woman who did not stick to the rules of society. We can also discuss the story
from a psychological approach …
We might apply what‟s eclectical by either sticking to a single approach or using several ones …
Kate Chopin (1850-1904)
Kate Chopin is one of the few important women writers of the 19th century. The family was Irish
Catholic. Her father died when she was four years old, but the women in her family were very
strong. Kate herself had a strong character; she was a daring women, used to smoke and walk in
the street with men.
Kate knew French and read the works of Guy de Maupassant, Honoré de Balzac, Emile Zola and
her favorite Gustave Flaubert and was influenced by his novel Madame Bovary. Although her
husband died early leaving her with six children, Kate managed to write a story almost every
day. She wrote 6 novels, 150 stories and sketches and never rewrote her stories.
The Storm is one of her most important stories in which she openly speaks of adultery without
any embarrassment. She is a daring woman ahead of her time who challenged greatly her
society. The Awakening is another example of Chopin‟s daring nature. The book came as a shock
and had many reviewers. It was forgotten for a while but later rediscovered by feminist critics
that became interested in the issues dealt with in the story and it is now considered a classic of
American literature [canon written by a female writer].
The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1890)
Edna Pontellier, the protagonist of the story, is a woman of twenty-eight married to what
outwardly appears to be a nice forty-year old businessman that everyone likes. They have two
children aged 4 and 5 and Mr. Pontellier seems to provide for all of Edna‟s material needs but
fails to provide for her spiritual and emotional ones. He does not have time for her, he is either
busy with his work or going out with his male friends to clubs. She looks for alternatives and
finds Robert Lebrun, a nice young man who cared for her, listened to her stories and played with
her kids. The family is spending the summer at the “Grand Isle”. The setting is then a summer
resort in New Orleans. The community there is of a French Catholic origin [Creole]. At the end
of the story, Edna will be shocked when Robert decided to leave to Mexico.
The parrot at the beginning of the story is symbolic. Mr. Pontellier is always playing with coins
and he often checks the economic section in the paper [this is very symbolic]. Mr. Pontellier was
reading the paper when he saw his wife and Robert coming from the beach under the same
umbrella. He was worried about her getting sunburn and is treating her like one of his
possessions. He was not interested to know where the two went and what they did, the story
made him yawn.
A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over
… Mr. Pontellier, unable to read his newspaper with any degree of comfort, arose with an
expression and an exclamation of disgust. He was already acquainted with the market reports,
and he glanced restlessly over the editorials and bits of news which he had not had time to read
before quitting New Orleans the day before.
Mr. Pontellier wore eye-glasses. He was a man of forty, of medium height and rather slender
build; he stooped a little. His hair was brown and straight, parted on one side. His beard was
neatly and closely trimmed. Mr. Pontellier's two children were there sturdy little fellows of four
and five. A quadroon nurse followed them about with a faraway, meditative air.
The sunshade continued to approach slowly. Beneath its pink-lined shelter were his wife, Mrs.
Pontellier, and young Robert Lebrun. "What folly! to bathe at such an hour in such heat!"
exclaimed Mr. Pontellier. "You are burnt beyond recognition," he added, looking at his wife as
one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage. [This is
very significant for the feminist theme. Mr. Pontellier is mainly concerned with his wife‟s
"What is it?" asked Pontellier, looking lazily and amused from one to the other. It was some utter
nonsense; some adventure out there in the water, and they both tried to relate it at once. It did
not seem half so amusing when told. They realized this, and so did Mr. Pontellier. He yawned
and stretched himself. Then he got up, saying he had half a mind to go over to Klein's hotel and
play a game of billiards. [His wife is telling him what she did, but it seems he didn‟t mind.]
"Come go along, Lebrun," he proposed to Robert. But Robert admitted quite frankly that he
preferred to stay where he was and talk to Mrs. Pontellier. "Well, send him about his business
when he bores you, Edna," instructed her husband as he prepared to leave.
"Coming back to dinner?" his wife called after him. He halted a moment and shrugged his
shoulders. He felt in his vest pocket; there was a ten-dollar bill there. He did not know; perhaps
he would return for the early dinner and perhaps he would not. It all depended upon the
company which he found over at Klein's and the size of "the game." He did not say this, but she
understood it, and laughed, nodding good-by to him. Both children wanted to follow their father
when they saw him starting out. He kissed them and promised to bring them back bonbons and
peanuts. [He has a preference for the company at the club.]
Edna is introduced; she is quiet and smart, deep and contemplative. The eyebrows reflect her
depth. We learn about what kind of person she was. Robert is more energetic and more fresh.
Leonce asked Lebrun to come with him to the club, but Robert refused because he preferred to
stay with Edna. On one hand, Leonce considers his friends at the club more important than his
wife. On the other hand, Robert can talk almost about everything; he can talk a good deal about
himself. Their relationship was an easy-going one unlike the case with her husband. Robert tells
Edna that he might be going to work in Mexico – this is an important development for the rest of
Mrs. Pontellier's eyes were quick and bright; they were a yellowish brown, about the color of her
hair. She had a way of turning them swiftly upon an object and holding them there as if lost in
some inward maze of contemplation or thought.
Her eyebrows were a shade darker than her hair. They were thick and almost horizontal,
emphasizing the depth of her eyes. She was rather handsome than beautiful. Her face was
captivating by reason of a certain frankness of expression and a contradictory subtle play of
features. Her manner was engaging.
There rested no shadow of care upon his open countenance. His eyes gathered in and reflected
the light and languor of the summer day. They chatted incessantly: about the things around
them; their amusing adventure out in the water -- it had again assumed its entertaining aspect;
about the wind, the trees, the people who had gone to the Cheniere; about the children playing
croquet under the oaks, and the Farival twins, who were now performing the overture to "The
Poet and the Peasant." Robert talked a good deal about himself. He was very young, and did not
know any better. Mrs. Pontellier talked a little about herself for the same reason. Each was
interested in what the other said. [Robert is introduced; he seems interested in her more than her
Mrs. Pontellier was an American woman, with a small infusion of French which seemed to have
been lost in dilution. She read a letter from her sister, who was away in the East, and who had
engaged herself to be married. Robert was interested, and wanted to know what manner of girls
the sisters were, what the father was like, and how long the mother had been dead. [Robert was a
good listener; he was interested in her conversation]
The same night when Leonce returned home very late with an excellent humor and found his
wife was asleep, he made noises with the coins to wake her up and to tell her about the good time
he had at the club. He was disappointed when she did not show an interest in his story. He went
to check on the kids and heard Raoul speaking in his sleep; he immediately concluded that he
had high fever. He started to blame Edna for not paying attention to her sick son. Leonce went to
bed afterwards and fell asleep very quickly while Edna started to cry and couldn‟t be able to
It was eleven o'clock that night when Mr. Pontellier returned from Klein's hotel. He was in an
excellent humor, in high spirits, and very talkative. From his trousers pockets he took a fistful of
crumpled bank notes and a good deal of silver coin, which he piled on the bureau indiscriminately
with keys, knife, handkerchief, and whatever else happened to be in his pockets. She was overcome
with sleep, and answered him with little half utterances. [Money is important to him → this is very
He thought it very discouraging that his wife, who was the sole object of his existence, evinced so
little interest in things which concerned him, and valued so little his conversation. He reproached his
wife with her inattention, her habitual neglect of the children. If it was not a mother's place to look
after children, whose on earth was it? He himself had his hands full with his brokerage business. He
could not be in two places at once; making a living for his family on the street, and staying at home
to see that no harm befell them. He talked in a monotonous, insistent way. [This passage is important
to show the gap between them.]
She said nothing, and refused to answer her husband when he questioned her. When his cigar was
smoked out he went to bed, and in half a minute he was fast asleep. Mrs. Pontellier was by that time
thoroughly awake. She began to cry a little, and wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her peignoir. There
was no sound abroad except the hooting of an old owl in the top of a water-oak, and the everlasting
voice of the sea, that was not uplifted at that soft hour. It broke like a mournful lullaby upon the
night. [The old owl, symbol of death, overshadows the tragedy at the end of the novella.]
The tears came so fast to Mrs. Pontellier's eyes that the damp sleeve of her peignoir no longer served
to dry them. She could not have told why she was crying. Such experiences as the foregoing were not
uncommon in her married life. They seemed never before to have weighed much against the
abundance of her husband's kindness and a uniform devotion which had come to be tacit and self-
understood. [There is a description of Mrs. Pontellier‟s mood. Such things happened often in her
married life and maybe she did not mind at the beginning, but because it is repeated it started to
disturb her. ]
She did not sit there inwardly upbraiding her husband, lamenting at Fate, which had directed her
footsteps to the path which they had taken. She was just having a good cry all to herself. [She was
crying to feel better; this was an outlet to her repressed feelings.]
He was returning to the city to his business, and they would not see him again at the Island till the
coming Saturday. He had regained his composure, which seemed to have been somewhat impaired
the night before. He was eager to be gone, as he looked forward to a lively week in Carondelet
Street. Mr. Pontellier gave his wife half of the money which he had brought away from Klein's hotel
the evening before. She liked money as well as most women, and, accepted it with no little
satisfaction. "It will buy a handsome wedding present for Sister Janet!" she exclaimed, smoothing out
the bills as she counted them one by one. The boys were tumbling about, clinging to his legs,
imploring that numerous things be brought back to them.
A few days later a box arrived for Mrs. Pontellier from New Orleans. It was from her husband. It
was filled with friandises, with luscious and toothsome bits -- the finest of fruits, pates, a rare bottle
or two, delicious syrups, and bonbons in abundance. All declared that Mr. Pontellier was the best
husband in the world. Mrs. Pontellier was forced to admit that she knew of none better. [It seems he
was popular with the community. For them, he was a perfect husband.]
Everyone in the neighborhood likes Mr. Pontellier and says he is the perfect husband. Edna
in the story is compared to the other women / mothers who overprotect their children and do
not let them develop their own personality. These women idolize their children and worship
their husbands; they sacrifice themselves for the sake of their husbands.
Adele is one of these women, she is set in contrast to Edna but although the two women are
very different, they become good friends. Adele is presented in an ironic way. The people
among which Edna and Adele lived are called Creole; they are descendants of French
speaking settlers from Europe. They are free in expression, they tell dirty jokes and read
obscene books and talk about them in front of men.
It would have been a difficult matter for Mr. Pontellier to define to his own satisfaction or any
one else's wherein his wife failed in her duty toward their children. If one of the little Pontellier
boys took a tumble whilst at play, he was not apt to rush crying to his mother's arms for comfort.
[Mr. Pontellier used to blame her and then to regret his behavior. Edna wasn‟t an over-protective
mother; she let them fail and rise in order to help them to be independent.]
In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The mother-women seemed to prevail that
summer at Grand Isle. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands,
and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as
ministering angels. [Feminist ideas]
Many of them were delicious in the role; one of them was the embodiment of every womanly
grace and charm. If her husband did not adore her, he was a brute, deserving of death by slow
torture. Her name was Adèle Ratignolle. There are no words to describe her save the old ones
that have served so often to picture the bygone heroine of romance and the fair lady of our
dreams. There was nothing subtle or hidden about her charms; her beauty was all there, flaming
and apparent. Madame Ratignolle was very fond of Mrs. Pontellier. [Mrs. Pontellier is compared
in an ironical and exaggerated way to another woman – a typical traditional wife whose beauty is
blown up and who didn‟t leave any space for her individualism. It seems the narrator doesn‟t
approve of all this. However, Edna likes Adele although she differs from her]
Madame Ratignolle had been married seven years. About every two years she had a baby. At
that time she had three babies, and was beginning to think of a fourth one. Mrs. Pontellier,
though she had married a Creole, was not thoroughly at home in the society of Creoles; never
before had she been thrown so intimately among them. Their freedom of expression was at first
incomprehensible to her, though she had no difficulty in reconciling it with a lofty chastity which
in the Creole woman seems to be inborn and unmistakable.
Never would Edna Pontellier forget the shock with which she heard Madame Ratignolle relating
to old Monsieur Farival the harrowing story of one of her accouchements, withholding no
intimate detail. She was growing accustomed to like shocks, but she could not keep the mounting
color back from her cheeks.
A book had gone the rounds of the pension. When it came her turn to read it, she did so with
profound astonishment. She felt moved to read the book in secret and solitude, though none of
the others had done so, -- to hide it from view at the sound of approaching footsteps.
Session 6 - Thursday December 13, 2007
Part 5: Edna begins discovering her individuality. The novella traces her gradual awakening and
realization of herself. Her husband was too busy making money to be intimate with her and that
led her to Robert. On Grand Isle, Robert, forever afraid of establishing permanent relationships,
was always in the habit of befriending either an elderly or very young lady each summer and
people did not take him seriously but this time, Edna did. Before it became Edna‟s turn, it had
been Adele‟s, who used him and discarded him when she was tired of him. Creole husbands
were never jealous and we see the difference between Edna who at first refused Robert‟s
flirtations and the other women on the island but Edna treated him as a friend. She keeps looking
out to the sea for inspiration, a symbol of her awakening.
Robert and Mrs. Pontellier sitting idle, exchanging occasional words, glances or smiles which indicated a
certain advanced stage of intimacy and camaraderie. He had lived in her shadow during the past month. No
one thought anything of it. Many had predicted that Robert would devote himself to Mrs. Pontellier when he
arrived. Since the age of fifteen, which was eleven years before, Robert each summer at Grand Isle had
constituted himself the devoted attendant of some fair dame or damsel. Sometimes it was a young girl, again a
widow; but as often as not it was some interesting married woman. [Robert befriended many women who
were using him including Adele; he had relationships with girls, widows & married women.]
For two consecutive seasons he lived in the sunlight of Mademoiselle Duvigne's presence. But she died
between summers; then Robert posed as an inconsolable, prostrating himself at the feet of Madame Ratignolle
for whatever crumbs of sympathy and comfort she might be pleased to vouchsafe. [He befriended a woman
who died and then he befriended Adele.]
Mrs. Pontellier liked to sit and gaze at her fair companion as she might look upon a faultless Madonna.
"Could any one fathom the cruelty beneath that fair exterior?" murmured Robert. "She knew that I adored her
once, and she let me adore her. It was 'Robert, come; go; stand up; sit down; do this; do that; see if the baby
sleeps; my thimble, please, that I left God knows where. Come and read Daudet to me while I sew.'" "Par
exemple! I never had to ask. You were always there under my feet, like a troublesome cat." "You mean like an
adoring dog. And just as soon as Ratignolle appeared on the scene, then it was like a dog. [To Edna, Adele is
a perfect Madonna in the sense of a traditional wife. Robert experienced Adele and knew that she was
cruel, because she was using him by giving him orders. She just used him and threw him away.]
"Perhaps I feared to make Alphonse jealous," she interjoined, with excessive naïveté. That made them all
laugh. The right hand jealous of the left! The heart jealous of the soul! But for that matter, the Creole husband
is never jealous; with him the gangrene passion is one which has become dwarfed by disuse. Meanwhile
Robert, addressing Mrs. Pontellier, continued to tell of his one time hopeless passion for Madame Ratignolle;
of sleepless nights, of consuming flames till the very sea sizzled when he took his daily plunge. While the lady
at the needle kept up a little running, contemptuous comment: "Blagueur -- farceur -- gros bete, va!" [She
didn‟t take Robert seriously; he approached her in an ironical way and with exaggeration.]
He never assumed this seriocomic tone when alone with Mrs. Pontellier. She never knew precisely what to
make of it; at that moment it was impossible for her to guess how much of it was jest and what proportion was
earnest. It was understood that he had often spoken words of love to Madame Ratignolle, without any thought
of being taken seriously. Mrs. Pontellier was glad he had not assumed a similar role toward herself. It would
have been unacceptable and annoying. [Robert didn‟t mind saying to Adele that he loves her, but Edna is
very serious and would not accept such things.]
During his oblivious attention he once quietly rested his head against Mrs. Pontellier's arm. As gently she
repulsed him. Once again he repeated the offense. She could not but believe it to be thoughtlessness on his
part; yet that was no reason she should submit to it. She did not remonstrate, except again to repulse him
quietly but firmly. He offered no apology. [Edna would not allow Robert to flirt with her]
She stood watching the fair woman walk down the long line of galleries with the grace and majesty which
queens are sometimes supposed to possess. Her little ones ran to meet her. Two of them clung about her white
skirts, the third she took from its nurse and with a thousand endearments bore it along in her own fond,
encircling arms. Though, as everybody well knew, the doctor had forbidden her to lift so much as a pin! Her
glance wandered from his face away toward the Gulf, whose sonorous murmur reached her like a loving but
imperative entreaty. The sun was low in the west and the breeze was soft and warm. [Adele is a traditional
wife and here she is criticized ironically. Nature is very important and means a lot to her; it inspires her.]
Part 6: The inner conflicts inside Edna are between submission and refusal. Contrary to custom,
she discovered that she is a separate human and consequently awakens to that fact. Part 6 is a
transitional phase. Some are incapable of going through Edna‟s experiences. The sea was
inviting her and she is communicating with nature. As with Walt Whitman, Edna unites with the
sea physically and spiritually.
Edna Pontellier could not have told why, wishing to go to the beach with Robert, she should in the first place
have declined, and in the second place have followed in obedience to one of the two contradictory impulses
which impelled her. [One part of Edna‟s inner-conflict (passion) tells her to go with Robert and another part
(duty) avoids her from doing so]
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. This may seem like a ponderous
weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight -perhaps more wisdom than the
Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman. 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! The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering,
clamoring, murmuring, and inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes
of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding
the body in its soft, close embrace. [Edna will be awakened to her individuality; she tries to see herself as an
individual. This development is not an easy process; some would make it and some wouldn‟t. The sea will play
an important role and nature will have an impact in inviting Edna to be awakened.]
Part 7: Edna in society was secretive & conformist but at Grand Isle she is less reserved &
confides in Adele. She is attracted to nature with the beach that remind her of her childhood and
the open fields where she used to walk. Edna was the only Protestant in the group, escaping from
prayers because she found them gloomy. There was a kind of intimacy between the two; she had
a one sided love for a young cavalry officer who used to visit her father. She also loved a man
engaged to a neighbor who took no notice of her which bothered her greatly. There was also an
actor that she loved. Her parents objected to her marriage to Leonce for he was a Catholic. Her
attitude towards her children is uneven; she doesn‟t see herself fully prepared for motherhood.
She wished to be open and outspoken like Adele.
Mrs. Pontellier was not a woman given to confidences, a characteristic hitherto contrary to her nature. Even
as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended
instinctively the dual life -- that outward existence which conforms, and the inward life which questions. [Here,
we see the influence of Adele (open) on Edna (very reserved); they complement each other. We also have two
dualities – conforming to society and rebellious against society.]
That summer at Grand Isle she began to loosen a little the mantle of reserve [less reserved] that had always
enveloped her. There may have been -- there must have been -- influences, both subtle and apparent, working
in their several ways to induce her to do this; but the most obvious was the influence of Adèle Ratignolle. The
excessive physical charm of the Creole had first attracted her, for Edna had a sensuous susceptibility to
beauty. Then the candor of the woman's whole existence, which every one might read, and which formed so
striking a contrast to her own habitual reserve -- this might have furnished a link. Who can tell what metals the
gods use in forging the subtle bond which we call sympathy, which we might as well call love. [Edna liked the
beauty of Adele. One cannot explain why we feel intimacy with a person and not with another.]
The walk to the beach was no inconsiderable one, consisting as it did of a long, sandy path, upon which a
sporadic and tangled growth that bordered it on either side made frequent and unexpected inroads. The
women were both of goodly height, Madame Ratignolle possessing the more feminine and matronly figure. The
charm of Edna Pontellier's physique stole insensibly upon you. The lines of her body were long, clean and
symmetrical; it was a body which occasionally fell into splendid poses; there was no suggestion of the trim,
stereotyped fashion-plate about it. A casual and indiscriminating observer, in passing, might not cast a second
glance upon the figure. But with more feeling and discernment he would have recognized the noble beauty of
its modeling, and the graceful severity of poise and movement, which made Edna Pontellier different from the
crowd. [The beauty of nature is emphasized here. Both women are compared and described. Edna had some
charm although she was as beautiful as Adele.]
"Of whom -- of what are you thinking?" asked Adèle of her companion. [It seems that Edna was thinking of her
childhood experiences (when she walked in the fields of Kentucky).]
"But for the fun of it," persisted Edna. "First of all, the sight of the water stretching so far away, those
motionless sails against the blue sky, made a delicious picture that I just wanted to sit and look at. The hot
wind beating in my face made me think -- without any connection that I can trace of a summer day in
Kentucky, of a meadow that seemed as big as the ocean to the very little girl walking through the grass, which
was higher than her waist. She threw out her arms as if swimming when she walked, beating the tall grass as
one strikes out in the water. Oh, I see the connection now!" "Where were you going that day in Kentucky,
walking through the grass?" "I don't remember now. I was just walking diagonally across a big field. My sun-
bonnet obstructed the view. I could see only the stretch of green before me, and I felt as if I must walk on
forever, without coming to the end of it. I don't remember whether I was frightened or pleased. I must have
been entertained. "Likely as not it was Sunday," she laughed; "and I was running away from prayers, from the
Presbyterian service, read in a spirit of gloom by my father that chills me yet to think of." "And have you been
running away from prayers ever since, ma chère?" asked Madame Ratignolle, amused.
"No! Oh, no!" Edna hastened to say. "I was a little unthinking child in those days, just following a misleading
impulse without question. On the contrary, during one period of my life religion took a firm hold upon me;
after I was twelve and until -- until -- why, I suppose until now, though I never thought much about it -- just
driven along by habit. But do you know," she broke off, turning her quick eyes upon Madame Ratignolle and
leaning forward a little so as to bring her face quite close to that of her companion, "sometimes I feel this
summer as if I were walking through the green meadow again; idly, aimlessly, unthinking and unguided." [We
know more about her character; she is religious but more by habit and without thinking of it. This is the
beginning of her awakening. Edna will be reborn this summer.]
Madame Ratignolle laid her hand over that of Mrs. Pontellier, which was near her. Seeing that the hand was
not withdrawn, she clasped it firmly and warmly. She even stroked it a little, fondly, with the other hand,
murmuring in an undertone, "Pauvre chérie." [Adele sympathized with Edna trying to understand her.]
The action was at first a little confusing to Edna, but she soon lent herself readily to the Creole's gentle caress.
She was not accustomed to an outward and spoken expression of affection, either in herself or in others. She
and her younger sister, Janet, had quarreled a good deal through force of unfortunate habit. Her older sister,
Margaret, was matronly and dignified, probably from having assumed matronly and housewifely
responsibilities too early in life, their mother having died when they were quite young, Margaret was not
effusive (pouring out her emotions); she was practical. Edna had had an occasional girl friend, but whether
accidentally or not, they seemed to have been all of one type -- the self-contained. She never realized that the
reserve of her own character had much, perhaps everything, to do with this. [Edna lost her mother & she had 2
sisters who didn‟t give her the sympathy & emotions she needs . She had a friend who was reserved like her.]
At a very early age -- perhaps it was when she traversed the ocean of waving grass-she remembered that she
had been passionately enamored of a dignified and sad-eyed cavalry officer who visited her father in
Kentucky. She could not leave his presence when he was there, nor remove her eyes from his face, which was
something like Napoleon's, with a lock of black hair failing across the forehead. Edna was a little miss, just
merging into her teens; the realization that she herself was nothing, nothing, nothing to the engaged young
man was a bitter affliction to her. But he, too, went the way of dreams. [She loved him, but he was engaged]
Her marriage to Léonce Pontellier was purely an accident, in this respect resembling many other marriages
which masquerade as the decrees of Fate. It was in the midst of her secret great passion that she met him. He
fell in love, as men are in the habit of doing, and pressed his suit with earnestness and ardor which left nothing
to be desired. He pleased her; his absolute devotion flattered her. She fancied there was a sympathy of thought
and taste between them, in which fancy she was mistaken. Add to this the violent opposition of her father and
her sister Margaret to her marriage with a Catholic, and we need seek no further for the motives which led her
to accept Monsieur Pontellier for her husband. [She thought that he is the proper person but she was mistaken.
Her father and sister opposed her, but she insisted on marrying him though after a while she was disappointed.]
She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to
her heart; she would sometimes forget them. The year before they had spent part of the summer with their
grandmother Pontellier in Iberville feeling secure regarding their happiness and welfare, she did not miss
them except with an occasional intense longing. Their absence was a sort of relief, though she did not admit
this, even to herself. It seemed to free her of a responsibility which she had blindly assumed and for which Fate
had not fitted her. She had put her head down on Madame Ratignolle's shoulder. She was flushed and felt
intoxicated with the sound of her own voice and the unaccustomed taste of candor. It muddled her like wine, or
like a first breath of freedom. [She was not really mature enough to be a mother. She didn‟t have enough
experience to have children. Edna got from Adele the sense of freedom – the freedom of expression.]
Part 8: Adele tells Robert to let Edna alone before they become too serious and this angered him
but Adele insisted that what she was saying was the law with no arguments against her
permitted. An important symbol: a woman in black walks behind the three lovers anticipating
Edna‟s tragedy and that her love will end in failure.
"I only ask for one; let Mrs. Pontellier alone." "Tiens!" he exclaimed, with a sudden, boyish laugh. "Voila que
Madame Ratignolle est jalouse!" "Nonsense! I'm in earnest; I mean what I say. Let Mrs. Pontellier alone."
"Why?" he asked; himself growing serious at his companion's solicitation. "She is not one of us; she is not like
us. She might make the unfortunate blunder of taking you seriously." His face flushed with annoyance, and
taking off his soft hat he began to beat it impatiently against his leg as he walked. "Why shouldn't she take me
seriously?" he demanded sharply. "Am I a comedian, a clown, a jack-in-the-box? Why shouldn't she? You
Creoles! I have no patience with you! Am I always to be regarded as a feature of an amusing programme? I
hope Mrs. Pontellier does take me seriously. I hope she has discernment enough to find in me something
besides the blagueur. If I thought there was any doubt -- " "Oh, enough, Robert!" she broke into his heated
outburst. "You are not thinking of what you are saying. You speak with about as little reflection as we might
expect from one of those children down there playing in the sand. If your attentions to any married women
here were ever offered with any intention of being convincing, you would not be the gentleman we all know
you to be, and you would be unfit to associate with the wives and daughters of the people who trust you."
Madame Ratignolle had spoken what she believed to be the law and the gospel. [Adele understood the
character of Edna who was different from her.]
"You made one mistake, Adèle," he said, with a light smile; "there is no earthly possibility of Mrs. Pontellier
ever taking me seriously. You should have warned me against taking myself seriously. Your advice might then
have carried some weight and given me subject for some reflection. The lovers were just entering the grounds
of the pension. They were leaning toward each other as the water oaks bent from the sea. There was not a
particle of earth beneath their feet. Their heads might have been turned upside-down, so absolutely did they
tread upon blue ether. The lady in black, creeping behind them, looked a trifle paler and more jaded than
usual. [From the Creole women, she would take Robert seriously. Adele insisted on him that he must leave
her. We have certain images that repeat themselves: sea, nature, two lovers followed by a black woman. Love
is always associated with envy. So this black woman is after them aiming at destroying their love.]
Part 9: Miss Reisz the musician is introduced but no one likes her and her music except Edna.
When Edna is moved by the music & cries, she tells her she‟s the only one deserving her music.
She was a disagreeable little woman, no longer young, who had quarreled with almost every one, owing to a
temper which was self-assertive and a disposition to trample upon the rights of others. Robert prevailed upon
her without any too great difficulty. [No one likes Miss Reisz, because it seems she has a bad temper.]
Edna was what she herself called very fond of music. Musical strains, well rendered, had a way of evoking
pictures in her mind. She sometimes liked to sit in the room of mornings when Madame Ratignolle played or
practiced. One piece which that lady played Edna had entitled "Solitude." It was a short, plaintive, minor
strain. The name of the piece was something else, but she called it "Solitude." When she heard it there came
before her imagination the figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the seashore. He was naked. His
attitude was one of hopeless resignation as he looked toward a distant bird winging its flight away from him.
The very first chords which Mademoiselle Reisz struck upon the piano sent a keen tremor down Mrs.
Pontellier's spinal column. It was not the first time she had heard an artist at the piano. Perhaps it was the
first time she was ready, perhaps the first time her being was tempered to take an impress of the abiding truth.
She waited for the material pictures which she thought would gather and blaze before her imagination. She
waited in vain. She saw no pictures of solitude, of hope, of longing, or of despair. 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. "Well, how did you like my music?" she asked.
The young woman was unable to answer; she pressed the hand of the pianist convulsively. Mademoiselle Reisz
perceived her agitation and even her tears. She patted her again upon the shoulder as she said: "You are the
only one worth playing for. Those others? Bah!" and she went shuffling and sidling on down the gallery
toward her room. But she was mistaken about "those others." Her playing had aroused a fever of enthusiasm.
"What passion!" "What an artist!" "I have always said no one could play Chopin like Mademoiselle Reisz!"
"That last prelude! Bon Dieu! It shakes a man!" It was growing late, and there was a general disposition to
disband. But some one, perhaps it was Robert, thought of a bath at that mystic hour and under that mystic
moon. [Edna could visualize music; she likes and responds to music that inspires solitude and is affected. This
is the beginning of her awakening. “Mystic hour” and “mystic moon” are romantic elements.]
Edna and Robert are on the beach and the beauty of nature is emphasized. When she goes into
the water to learn to swim, she is compared to a child learning to walk. As she learns to swim,
her confidence rises and she becomes daring and reckless. This is symbolic of her developing her
own independence. Foreshadowing is shown when while she is swimming, she feels as if she
were dead. Mythical reference is important on page 655: she felt like she was living a mystical
experience such as Robert‟s story about a spirit, who on August nights looks for a deserving
person for awakening and finds Edna.
The Pontelliers and Ratignolles walked ahead; the women leaning upon the arms of their husbands. Edna
could hear Robert's voice behind them, and could sometimes hear what he said. She wondered why he did
not join them. It was unlike him not to. Of late he had sometimes held away from her for an entire day,
redoubling his devotion upon the next and the next, as though to make up for hours that had been lost.
She missed him the days when some pretext served to take him away from her, just as one misses the sun
on a cloudy day without having thought much about the sun when it was shining. [Edna was walking
alone and Robert was following her; she started to miss him.]
But the night sat lightly upon the sea and the land. There was no weight of darkness; there were no
shadows. The white light of the moon had fallen upon the world like the mystery and the softness of sleep.
[This is all a preparation for her awakening.]
But that night she was like the little tottering, stumbling, clutching child, who of a sudden realizes its
powers, and walks for the first time alone, boldly and with over-confidence. She could have shouted for
joy. She did shout for joy, as with a sweeping stroke or two she lifted her body to the surface of the water.
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. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She
wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before. "How easy it is!" she thought. "It is nothing,"
she said aloud; "why did I not discover before that it was nothing. Think of the time I have lost splashing
about like a baby!" [Edna learned how to swim and in swimming she was developing herself as an
individual. She was compared to a child.]
As she swam she seemed to be reaching out for the unlimited in which to lose herself (symbolic). A quick
vision of death smote her soul, and for a second of time appalled and enfeebled her senses. But by an
effort she rallied her staggering faculties and managed to regain the land. She made no mention of her
encounter with death and her flash of terror, except to say to her husband, "I thought I should have
perished out there alone." She started to walk away alone. They all called to her and shouted to her. She
waved a dissenting hand, and went on, paying no further heed to their renewed cries which sought to
detain her. [She felt at one point she might sink and die; she was walking on her own not with the
other people. This is the beginning of her awakening. She felt a different person.]
"Did you think I was afraid?" she asked him, without a shade of annoyance. "No; I knew you weren't
afraid." "Then why did you come? Why didn't you stay out there with the others?" "I never thought of it."
"Thought of what?" "Of anything. What difference does it make?" "I'm very tired," she uttered,
complainingly. "I know you are." [One of the women commented that she is a moody woman. Robert
overtook her and walked with her]
I wonder if any night on earth will ever again be like this one. It is like a night in a dream. The people
about me are like some uncanny (superhuman), half-human beings. There must be spirits (myths) abroad
to-night." "The twenty-eighth of August?" "Yes. On the twenty-eighth of August, at the hour of midnight,
and if the moon is shining -- the moon must be shining -- a spirit that has haunted these shores for ages
rises up from the Gulf. With its own penetrating vision the spirit seeks some one mortal worthy to hold
him company, worthy of being exalted for a few hours into realms of the semi-celestials. His search has
always hitherto been fruitless, and he has sunk back, disheartened, into the sea. But to-night he found
Mrs. Pontellier. Perhaps he will never wholly release her from the spell. Perhaps she will never again
suffer a poor, unworthy earthling to walk in the shadow of her divine presence." [She tells Robert how
she was impressed by the music of Reisz. Robert was then telling her about that myth when a certain
spirit comes down to earth and chooses someone.]
Session 7 - Thursday January 10, 2008
The gradual awakening of Edna is traced. She is discovering her self-identity in order to develop
her talent and be able to paint. She wanted to be herself and not a supplement to her husband
who did not understand her spiritual needs, because he was more of a materialistic. She became a
separate individual and not just an appendix:
1- Through nature
2- Through painting
3- Through the music of Ms. Reisz
4- Through her association with Robert
5- Through the sea and through swimming
6- Even through Adele although different from her
After this experience of swimming, she begins disobeying her husband by not going into the
house as he asks her, because he is trying to overpower her. In the past, she was obeying not out
of obedience but out of habit. Now she wants to be aware of what she is doing.
She heard him moving about the room; every sound indicating impatience and irritation. Another time
she would have gone in at his request. She would, through habit, have yielded to his desire; not with any
sense of submission or obedience to his compelling wishes, but unthinkingly, as we walk, move, sit, stand,
go through the daily treadmill of the life which has been portioned out to us.
"Edna, dear, are you not coming in soon?" he asked again, this time fondly, with a note of entreaty. "No;
I am going to stay out here." "This is more than folly," he blurted out. "I can't permit you to stay out
there all night. You must come in the house instantly."
With a writhing motion she settled herself more securely in the hammock. She perceived that her will had
blazed up, stubborn and resistant. She could not at that moment have done other than denied and
resisted. She wondered if her husband had ever spoken to her like that before, and if she had submitted to
his command. Of course she had; she remembered that she had. But she could not realize why or how she
should have yielded, feeling as she then did.
"Léonce, go to bed, " she said I mean to stay out here. I don't wish to go in, and I don't intend to. Don't
speak to me like that again; I shall not answer you." [She is giving orders now and became resistant].
Here is another mystical experience and part of her awakening. When on an island for the day
with Robert, she falls asleep and upon waking she feels as if she has slept for centuries. She feels
a rebirth in the Chênière and joy as if living in another world. It is only now that she feels free.
She slept but a few hours. They were troubled and feverish hours, disturbed with dreams that were
intangible, that eluded her, leaving only an impression upon her half-awakened senses of something
unattainable. She was up and dressed in the cool of the early morning. The air was invigorating and
steadied somewhat her faculties. However, she was not seeking refreshment or help from any source,
either external or from within. She was blindly following whatever impulse moved her, as if she had
placed herself in alien hands for direction, and freed her soul of responsibility. [She wants to follow her
feelings now and to behave instinctively; she seems more daring by going to Robert‟s home.]
"Tell him I am going to the Chênière [this is a place where people spend time to rest (Romantic)]. The
boat is ready; tell him to hurry." He had soon joined her. She had never sent for him before. She had
never asked for him. She had never seemed to want him before. She did not appear conscious that she had
done anything unusual in commanding his presence. He was apparently equally unconscious of anything
extraordinary in the situation. But his face was suffused with a quiet glow when he met her.
Sailing across the bay to the Chênière Caminada, Edna felt as if she were being borne away from some
anchorage which had held her fast, whose chains had been loosening -- had snapped the night before
when the mystic spirit was abroad, leaving her free to drift whithersoever she chose to set her sails. [It is
as if she was tied and now she is freeing herself.]
She felt oppressed in church and could not stand the atmosphere of the church. It seems that her
experience with religion is heavy to her breast. She felt she is reborn as if it is a new life; she is
feeling out of this world and out of time. This was an important stage in her awakening.
A feeling of oppression and drowsiness overcame Edna during the service. Her head began to ache, and
the lights on the altar swayed before her eyes. Another time she might have made an effort to regain her
composure; but her one thought was to quit the stifling atmosphere of the church and reach the open air.
"How many years have I slept?" she inquired. "The whole island seems changed. A new race of beings
must have sprung up, leaving only you and me as past relics. How many ages ago did Madame Antoine
and Tonie die? And when did our people from Grand Isle disappear from the earth?" [Sleep is renewal]
Her husband was worried about her, but still he is mainly concerned with his business and in
making money. He is more of a materialistic individual.
Léonce had been very uneasy at first, Madame Ratignolle said, and had wanted to start at once for the
Chênière. But Monsieur Farival had assured him that his wife was only overcome with sleep and fatigue,
that Tonie would bring her safely back later in the day; and he had thus been dissuaded from crossing the
bay. He had gone over to Klein's, looking up some cotton broker whom he wished to see in regard to
securities, exchanges, stocks, bonds, or something of the sort, Madame Ratignolle did not remember
what. He said he would not remain away late.
She let her mind wander back over her stay at Grand Isle; and she tried to discover wherein this summer
had been different from any and every other summer of her life. She could only realize that she herself --
her present self-was in some way different from the other self. That she was seeing with different eyes and
making the acquaintance of new conditions in herself that colored and changed her environment, she did
not yet suspect. [She felt she is now reborn an independent person and she is her own self developing her
Robert was secret about his travel to Mexico; Edna learned it from other people and this is what
troubled her. She was persistent in her argue with him questioning his leaving to Mexico. Edna
was very disappointed that Robert left her with a short note without telling her. Two symbols
recurred several times in the story – two lovers and a woman in black that will anticipate the
tragedy about to happen later in the end. The woman in black is very religious and indulgent.
As she seated herself and was about to begin to eat her soup, which had been served when she entered the
room, several persons informed her simultaneously that Robert was going to Mexico. She laid her spoon
down and looked about her bewildered. He had been with her, reading to her all the morning, and had
never even mentioned such a place as Mexico.
"Impossible!" she exclaimed. "How can a person start off from Grand Isle to Mexico at a moment's
notice, as if he were going over to Klein's or to the wharf or down to the beach?" "I said all along I was
going to Mexico; I've been saying so for years!" cried Robert, in an excited and irritable tone, with the air
of a man defending himself against a swarm of stinging insects.
Madame Ratignolle hoped that Robert would exercise extreme caution in dealing with the Mexicans, who,
she considered, were a treacherous people, unscrupulous and revengeful. She trusted she did them no
injustice in thus condemning them as a race. She had known personally but one Mexican, who made and
sold excellent tamales / dishes, and whom she would have trusted implicitly, so soft spoken, was he. One
day he was arrested for stabbing his wife. She never knew whether he had been hanged or not. [There is
racism and stereotyping of Mexicans by Adele from a single experience she had and this is wrong.
According to her, Mexicans were treacherous people]
"All that noise and confusion at the table must have upset me," replied Edna, "and moreover, I hate
shocks and surprises. The idea of Robert starting off in such a ridiculously sudden and dramatic way! As
if it was a matter of life and death! Never saying a word about it all morning when he was with me."
Somewhat later Robert came up, carrying his hand-bag. "Aren't you feeling well?" he asked. "Oh, well
enough. Are you going right away?" How long will you be gone?" "Forever, perhaps. I don't know. It
depends upon a good many things." "Well, in case it shouldn't be forever, how long will it be?" "I don't
know." "This seems to me perfectly preposterous and uncalled for. I don't like it. I don't understand your
motive for silence and mystery, never saying a word to me about it this morning." He remained silent, not
offering to defend himself.
"I don't want to part in any ill humor," she said. "But can't you understand? I've grown used to seeing
you, to having you with me all the time, and your action seems unfriendly, even unkind. You don't even
offer an excuse for it. Why, I was planning to be together, thinking of how pleasant it would be to see you
in the city next winter." [She is rebuking him for leaving her. She had plans to meet with him not only in
summer but in winter too, but unfortunately all her plans are blown up.]
"Good-by, my dear Mrs. Pontellier; good-by. You won't -- I hope you won't completely forget me." She
clung to his hand, striving to detain him. "Write to me when you get there, won't you, Robert?" she
entreated. "I will, thank you. Good-by." How unlike Robert! The merest acquaintance would’ve said
something more emphatic than "I will, thank you; good-by" to such a request.
Edna bit her handkerchief convulsively, striving to hold back and to hide, even from herself as she would
have hidden from an other, the emotion which was troubling-tearing -- her. Her eyes were brimming with
tears. For the first time she recognized the symptoms of infatuation which she had felt incipiently as a
child, as a girl in her earliest teens, and later as a young woman. The recognition did not lessen the
reality, the poignancy of the revelation by any suggestion or promise of instability. The past was nothing
to her; offered no lesson which she was willing to heed. The future was a mystery which she never
attempted to penetrate. The present alone was significant; was hers, to torture her as it was doing then
with the biting conviction that she had lost that which she had held, that she had been denied that which
her impassioned, newly awakened being demanded. [Robert was speaking in a formal way as if they were
not intimate. Edna built hopes in her relation with Robert that her present would be better than her past.]
Her life has changed after Robert has left her. Everything became gloomy to her. He left leaving
a void and wilderness behind him. She wanted to see something that reminded her of him. She
was jealous even from his mother. She tells her husband that life is very dull without Robert.
Before travelling, Robert met with her husband and Edna was curious to know every single detail
about their meeting … According to her husband, Robert is seeking adventure in Mexico. Her
relationship with her husband is formal / traditional whereas with Robert it was more emotional.
Robert's going had some way taken the brightness, the color, the meaning out of everything. The
conditions of her life were in no way changed, but her whole existence was dulled, like a faded garment
which seems to be no longer worth wearing. She sought him everywhere -- in others whom she induced to
talk about him. She went up in the mornings to Madame Lebrun's room, braving the clatter of the old
sewing-machine. She sat there and chatted at intervals as Robert had done.
But there was no recent picture, none which suggested the Robert who had gone away five days ago,
leaving a void and wilderness behind him. There were only a few lines, setting forth that he would leave
the city that afternoon, that he had packed his trunk in good shape, that he was well, and sent her his love
and begged to be affectionately remembered to all. There was no special message to Edna except a
postscript saying that if Mrs. Pontellier desired to finish the book which he had been reading to her, his
mother would find it in his room, among other books there on the table. Edna experienced a pang of
jealousy because he had written to his mother rather than to her. Every one seemed to take for granted
that she missed him. Even her husband, when he came down the Saturday following Robert's departure,
expressed regret that he had gone. "How do you get on without him, Edna?" he asked. "It's very dull
without him," she admitted and Edna asked him a dozen questions or more.
It did not strike her as in the least grotesque that she should be making of Robert the object of
conversation and leading her husband to speak of him. The sentiment which she entertained for Robert in
no way resembled that which she felt for her husband, or had ever felt, or ever expected to feel. Edna had
once told Madame Ratignolle that she would never sacrifice herself for her children, or for any one.
"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 clearer; it's only something which I am beginning to comprehend,
which is revealing itself to me." [Adele is more of a traditional wife, but Edna wants to develop herself.]
"Her favorite son! Oh, dear! Who could have been imposing such a tale upon you? Aline Lebrun lives for
Victor & for Victor alone. She has spoiled him into the worthless creature he is. [Robert‟s mother favored
his brother Victor. Edna thinks that Robert should have killed him because Victor was a bad person.]
Edna looked down at Mademoiselle Reisz and wondered how she could have listened to her venom so
long. For some reason she felt depressed, almost unhappy. She had not intended to go into the water; but
she donned her bathing suit, and left Mademoiselle alone, seated under the shade.
The Pontelliers are back to their luxurious home in New Orleans. Edna decided not to receive her
husband‟s visitors and left her home that Tuesday – something that was a ritual before wherein
Mr. Pontellier meets with them for business purposes. He came back that day expecting that his
wife Edna is receiving his guests, but he was alarmed when he knew that she was out. When she
returned back home he blamed her saying that one of the guests is important for him, because he
is planning to do business with her husband. At that point he disliked the soup, started blaming
her for not supervising properly the cook and decided to get his dinner at the club like usual.
However, it seems Edna is familiar with such reaction coming from her husband. Moreover,
nature is her refuge when her husband annoys her; she finds a mirror of herself in nature.
Mr. Pontellier was very fond of walking about his house examining its various appointments and details,
to see that nothing was amiss. He greatly valued his possessions, chiefly because they were his, and
derived genuine pleasure from contemplating a painting, a statuette, a rare lace curtain -- no matter what
-- after he had bought it and placed it among his household goods. [Edna was one of his possessions too.]
This had been the program which Mrs. Pontellier had religiously followed since her marriage, six years
before. Certain evenings during the week she and her husband attended the opera or sometimes the play.
"Tired out, Edna? Whom did you have? Many callers?" he asked. He tasted his soup and began to season
it with pepper, salt, vinegar, and mustard -- everything within reach. "There were a good many," replied
Edna, who was eating her soup with evident satisfaction. "I found their cards when I got home; I was
out." "Out!" exclaimed her husband, with something like genuine consternation in his voice as he laid
down the vinegar cruet and looked at her through his glasses. "Why, what could have taken you out on
Tuesday? What did you have to do?" "Nothing. I simply felt like going out, and I went out."
"Why, my dear, I should think you'd understand by this time that people don't do such things; we've got to
observe les convenances if we ever expect to get on and keep up with the procession. "This soup is really
impossible; it's strange that woman hasn't learned yet to make a decent soup. Any free-lunch stand in
town serves a better one. Was Mrs. Belthrop here?" [He didn‟t like the soup, because he was angry.]
I tell you what it is, Edna; you can't afford to snub Mrs. Belthrop. Why, Belthrop could buy and sell us ten
times over. His business is worth a good, round sum to me [business transactions through that woman].
"You used to think the cook was a treasure," returned Edna, indifferently. "Perhaps she was when she
first came; but cooks are only human. They need looking after, like any other class of persons that you
employ. "I'm going to get my dinner at the club. Good night." He went into the hall, took his hat and his
stick from the stand, and left the house.
It was a large, beautiful room, rich and picturesque in the soft, dim light which the maid had turned low.
She went and stood at an open window and looked out upon the deep tangle of the garden below. All the
mystery and witchery of the night seemed to have gathered there amid the perfumes and the dusky and
tortuous outlines of flowers and foliage. She was seeking herself and finding herself in just such sweet,
half-darkness which met her moods. Once she stopped, and taking off her wedding ring, flung it upon the
carpet. When she saw it lying there, she stamped her heel upon it, striving to crush it. In a sweeping
passion she seized a glass vase from the table and flung it upon the tiles of the hearth. She wanted to
destroy something. The crash and clatter were what she wanted to hear. [Finding relief in nature is
somehow romantic. Aggression instinct needs sometimes an outlet which is nature in Edna‟s case.]
The husband is always after money; Edna felt alienated from all her surroundings and everything
around her was resisting to her. She was really obsessed with her love to Robert. She decided to
start painting but sought encouragements from Adele although different from her and so united
to her husband. However, the narrator doesn‟t approve of such union between wife and husband
but prefers that each has his separate identity and pitied Adele for her colorless existence.
Simone de Beauvoir [1908-1986]: the French feminist and existentialist writer, said that there
were two types of lives, the life of immanence that was like that of animals, containing just
enough to survive, as the life of Adele with her husband and the life of transcendence wherein
one has the opportunity to think, to contemplate & to get involved in cultural activities as Edna‟s.
Beauvoir hopes that women would move from a state of immanence to a state of transcendence.
"The way to become rich is to make money, my dear Edna, not to save it," he said. He regretted that she
did not feel inclined to go with him and select new fixtures. [The husband is always talking of business.]
Edna looked straight before her with a self-absorbed expression upon her face. She felt no interest in
anything about her. The street, the children, the fruit vender, and the flowers growing there under her
eyes, were all part and parcel of an alien world which had suddenly become antagonistic.
As Edna walked along the street she was thinking of Robert. She was still under the spell of her
infatuation. She had tried to forget him, realizing the inutility of remembering. But the thought of him was
like an obsession, ever pressing itself upon her.
"Perhaps I shall be able to paint your picture some day," said Edna with a smile when they were seated.
She produced the roll of sketches and started to unfold them.
Mr. Ratignolle was one of those men who are called the salt of the earth. His cheer fulness was
unbounded, and it was matched by his goodness of heart, his broad charity, and common sense. He and
his wife spoke English with an accent which was only discernible through its un-English emphasis and a
certain carefulness and deliberation. Edna's husband spoke English with no accent whatever. The
Ratignolles understood each other perfectly. If ever the fusion of two human beings into one has been
accomplished on this sphere it was surely in their union. [There is irony in describing Adele‟s husband.]
Edna felt depressed rather than soothed after leaving them. The little glimpse of domestic harmony which
had been offered her, gave her no regret, no longing. It was not a condition of life which fitted her, and
she could see in it but an appalling and hopeless ennui. She was moved by a kind of commiseration for
Madame Ratignolle, -- a pity for that colorless existence which never uplifted its possessor beyond the
region of blind contentment, in which no moment of anguish ever visited her soul, in which she would
never have the taste of life's delirium. Edna vaguely wondered what she meant by "life's delirium." It had
crossed her thought like some unsought, extraneous impression. [Feminist themes]
Edna feels independent now; she started to resist her husband and grew insolent, because he
doesn‟t understand that she got talents she needs to develop. Edna later regretted her childish
antics of breaking things but started living life her way. Leonce complained about her painting
and neglect of the children and wished she would be more like Adele who is musician and still
she takes good care of her family. He feels she is breaking down mentally. There are two masks
worn by people, the one of the traditional woman and the one worn by Edna showing her real
self. But her husband could not understand this. Simone de Beauvoir [again]: When a woman
tries to express herself, she is labeled as a mad person and when she obeys, she is considered as
an angel in the house.
Edna could not help but think that it was very foolish, very childish, to have stamped upon her wedding
ring and smashed the crystal vase upon the tiles. She was visited by no more outbursts, moving her to
such futile expedients. She began to do as she liked and to feel as she liked. She completely abandoned
her Tuesdays at home, and did not return the visits of those who had called upon her. She made no
ineffectual efforts to conduct her household en bonne menagerie.
When Mr. Pontellier became rude, Edna grew insolent. She had resolved never to take another step
backward. "It seems to me the utmost folly for a woman at the head of a household, and the mother of
children, to spend in an atelier days which would be better employed contriving for the comfort of her
family." "I feel like painting," answered Edna. "Perhaps I shan't always feel like it." "Then in God's name
paint! But don't let the family go to the devil. There's Madame Ratignolle; because she keeps up her
music, she doesn't let everything else go to chaos. And she's more of a musician than you are a
painter." "She isn't a musician, and I'm not a painter. It isn't on account of painting that I let things go."
"On account of what, then?" "Oh! I don't know. Let me alone; you bother me." It sometimes entered Mr.
Pontellier's mind to wonder if his wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. He could see
plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting
aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.
It moved her with recollections. She could hear again the ripple of the water, the flapping sail. She could
see the glint of the moon upon the bay, and could feel the soft, gusty beating of the hot south wind. A
subtle current of desire passed through her body, weakening her hold upon the brushes and making her
eyes burn. There were days when she was very happy without knowing why. She was happy to be alive
and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, the
luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day. She liked then to wander alone into strange and
unfamiliar places. She discovered many a sunny, sleepy corner, fashioned to dream in. And she found it
good to dream and to be alone and unmolested [as if she is discovering the world of her own]. There
were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why, -- when it did not seem worth while to be glad
or sorry, to be alive or dead; when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium (confusion) and
humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation. She could not work on such a day,
nor weave fancies to stir her pulses and warm her blood.
Parts 20 - 21:
Mrs. Reisz is described as a horrible person, but because people hated her Edna sympathized
with her and wanted to know more about her. Edna while at Miss Reisz sees a letter from Robert
and reads it and starts to cry. Miss Reisz is then seen as ugly by everyone including the author.
She tells Edna that to be an artist, she has to be courageous, daring and defying. Music is another
motif in the story.
She did not linger to discuss class distinctions with Madame Pouponne, but hastened to a neighboring
grocery store, feeling sure that Mademoiselle would have left her address with the proprietor. He knew
Mademoiselle Reisz a good deal better than he wanted to know her, he informed his questioner. In truth,
he did not want to know her at all or anything concerning her -- the most disagreeable and unpopular
woman who ever lived in Bienville Street. He thanked heaven she had left the neighborhood, and was
equally thankful that he did not know where she had gone. Edna's desire to see Mademoiselle Reisz had
increased tenfold since these unlooked-for obstacles had arisen to thwart it.
The little musician laughed all over when she saw Edna. Her laugh consisted of a contortion of the face
and all the muscles of the body. She seemed strikingly homely, standing there in the afternoon light. She
still wore the shabby lace and the artificial bunch of violets on the side of her head.
"Yes," she went on; "I sometimes thought: 'She will never come. She promised as those women in society
always do, without meaning it. She will not come.' For I really don't believe you like me, Mrs. Pontellier."
"I don't know whether I like you or not," replied Edna, gazing down at the little woman with a quizzical
look. "Yes, your friend Robert. He wrote to me from the City of Mexico." "Wrote to you?" repeated Edna
in amazement, stirring her coffee absently. "Yes, to me. Why not? Don't stir all the warmth out of your
coffee; drink it. Though the letter might as well have been sent to you; it was nothing but Mrs. Pontellier
from beginning to end." "It was written about you, not to you. "But you have told me nothing of yourself.
What are you doing?" "Painting!" laughed Edna. "I am becoming an artist. Think of it!" "Ah! an artist!
You have pretensions, Madame." "Why pretensions? Do you think I could not become an artist?" "I do
not know you well enough to say. I do not know your talent or your temperament. To be an artist includes
much; one must possess many gifts -- absolute gifts -- which have not been acquired by one's own effort.
And, moreover, to succeed, the artist must possess the courageous soul." "What do you mean by the
courageous soul?" "Courageous, ma foi! The brave soul. The soul that dares and defies."
The shadows deepened in the little room. The music grew strange and fantastic -- turbulent, insistent,
plaintive and soft with entreaty. The shadows grew deeper. The music filled the room. It floated out upon
the night, over the housetops, the crescent of the river, losing itself in the silence of the upper air.
Edna was sobbing, just as she had wept one midnight at Grand Isle when strange, new voices awoke in
her. She arose in some agitation to take her departure. "May I come again, Mademoiselle?" she asked at
the threshold. "Come whenever you feel like it. Be careful; the stairs and landings are dark; don't
stumble." Mademoiselle reentered and lit a candle. Robert's letter was on the floor. She stooped and
picked it up. It was crumpled and damp with tears. Mademoiselle smoothed the letter out, restored it to
the envelope, and replaced it in the table drawer.
Feminist themes: Leonce consults the doctor about Edna who asks if she is associating with
some weird feminists. The doctor tells him to leave Edna alone and that with time she will get
well again. She refuses to attend her sister‟s wedding. Her father, who was in the army and still
behaves as an officer, comes to visit Edna and she takes care of him. Leonce never attends
Edna‟s parties so she went with her father.
One morning on his way into town Mr. Pontellier stopped at the house of his old friend and family
physician, Doctor Mandelet. The Doctor was a semi-retired physician, resting, as the saying is, upon his
laurels. He bore a reputation for wisdom rather than skill -- leaving the active practice of medicine to his
assistants and younger contemporaries -- and was much sought for in matters of consultation.
"Oh! I'm never sick, Doctor. You know that I come of tough fiber -- of that old Creole race of Pontelliers
that dry up and finally blow away. I came to consult -- no, not precisely to consult -- to talk to you about
Edna. I don't know what ails her." "Madame Pontellier not well," marveled the Doctor. "Why, I saw her -
- I think it was a week ago -- walking along Canal Street, the picture of health, it seemed to me."
"How does she act?" inquired the Doctor. "Well, it isn't easy to explain," said Mr. Pontellier, throwing
himself back in his chair. "She lets the housekeeping go to the dickens / devil." "Well, well; women are
not all alike, my dear Pontellier. We've got to consider –‖ [Feminist themes]. "I know that; I told you I
couldn't explain. Her whole attitude -- toward me and everybody and everything -- has changed. You
know I have a quick temper, but I don't want to quarrel or be rude to a woman, especially my wife; yet I'm
driven to it, and feel like ten thousand devils after I've made a fool of myself. She's making it devilishly
uncomfortable for me," he went on nervously. "She's got some sort of notion in her head concerning the
eternal rights of women; and -- you understand -- we meet in the morning at the breakfast table." [They
ridiculed feminist movements] "Has she," asked the Doctor, with a smile, "has she been associating of
late with a circle of pseudo-intellectual women -- super-spiritual superior beings? My wife has been
telling me about them." [Very ironic about feminist movements].
This was a new aspect for the Doctor. "Nothing hereditary?" he asked, seriously. "Nothing peculiar about
her family antecedents, is there?" "Oh, no, indeed! She comes of sound old Presbyterian Kentucky stock.
[He gives details about the family asserting that she comes from a good family]
And the youngest is something of a vixen. By the way, she gets married in a couple of weeks from now."
"Send your wife up to the wedding," exclaimed the Doctor, foreseeing a happy solution. "Let her stay
among her own people for a while; it will do her good." "That's what I want her to do. She won't go to the
marriage. She says a wedding is one of the most lamentable spectacles on earth. Nice thing for a woman
to say to her husband!" exclaimed Mr. Pontellier, fuming anew at the recollection.
Woman, my dear friend, is a very peculiar and delicate organism -- a sensitive and highly organized
woman, such as I know Mrs. Pontellier to be, is especially peculiar. It would require an inspired
psychologist to deal successfully with them. And when ordinary fellows like you and me attempt to cope
with their idiosyncrasies the result is bungling. Most women are moody and whimsical. This is some
passing whim of your wife, due to some cause or causes which you and I needn't try to fathom. But it will
pass happily over, especially if you let her alone. Send her around to see me." "Oh! I couldn't do that;
there'd be no reason for it," objected Mr. Pontellier. "Then I'll go around and see her," said the Doctor.
"I'll drop in to dinner some evening en bon ami. [This is a sexist idea and not a true one. Men usually
Session 8 - Thursday January 17, 2008
The gradual awakening of Edna continues to be traced. Edna‟s father comes to visit her. She
likes his visit although he is rigid and stiff. We notice an ambivalent attitude of Edna towards her
Edna's father was in the city, and had been with them several days. She was not very warmly or deeply
attached to him, but they had certain tastes in common [such as horse racing], and when together they
were companionable. His coming was in the nature of a welcome disturbance; it seemed to furnish a new
direction for her emotions.
But for the past few days the old gentleman had been upon Edna's hands, and in his society she was
becoming acquainted with a new set of sensations. He had been a colonel in the Confederate army, and
still maintained, with the title, the military bearing which had always accompanied it. His hair and
mustache were white and silky, emphasizing the rugged bronze of his face. He was tall and thin, and wore
his coats padded, which gave a fictitious breadth and depth to his shoulders and chest. Edna and her
father looked very distinguished together, and excited a good deal of notice during their perambulations /
walks together. Upon his arrival she began by introducing him to her atelier and making a sketch of him.
He took the whole matter very seriously. If her talent had been ten-fold greater than it was, it would not
have surprised him, convinced as he was that he had bequeathed / handed down to all of his daughters
the germs of a masterful capability, which only depended upon their own efforts to be directed toward
successful achievement. Before her pencil he sat rigid and unflinching, as he had faced the cannon's
mouth in days gone by. He resented the intrusion of the children, who gaped with wondering eyes at him,
sitting so stiff up there in their mother's bright atelier. When they drew near he motioned them away with
an expressive action of the foot, loath to disturb the fixed lines of his countenance, his arms, or his rigid
shoulders. [This description is to highlight the father‟s stiffness shown in an ironic way. She then decided
to paint her father who took the matter seriously and believed that Edna took many things from him.].
Mr. Pontellier did not attend these soirees musicales. He considered them bourgeois, and found more
diversion at the club. To Madame Ratignolle he said the music dispensed at her soirees was too "heavy,"
too far beyond his untrained comprehension. His excuse flattered her. But she disapproved of Mr.
Pontellier's club, and she was frank enough to tell Edna so. "It's a pity Mr. Pontellier doesn't stay home
more in the evenings. I think you would be more -- well, if you don't mind my saying it -- more united, if
he did." [Mr. Pontellier was not interested in music; he was a man of business & found more distraction
at the club. However, Adele didn‟t like the fact of him going to the club and leaving his family.]
"Oh! Dear no!" said Edna, with a blank look in her eyes. "What should I do if he stayed home? We
wouldn't have anything to say to each other." She had not much of anything to say to her father, for that
matter; but he did not antagonize her. She discovered that he interested her, though she realized that he
might not interest her long; and for the first time in her life she felt as if she were thoroughly acquainted
with him. He kept her busy serving him and ministering to his wants. It amused her to do so. She would
not permit a servant or one of the children to do anything for him which she might do herself. Her
husband noticed, and thought it was the expression of a deep filial attachment which he had never
suspected. [Edna doesn‟t mind if he leaves his home, because they do not share any hobby together. Her
father thought that Edna is doing the duty of a daughter towards her father.]
When Doctor Mandelet dined with the Pontelliers on Thursday he could discern in Mrs. Pontellier no
trace of that morbid condition which her husband had reported to him. She was excited and in a manner
radiant. She and her father had been to the race course, and their thoughts when they seated themselves
at table were still occupied with the events of the afternoon, and their talk was still of the track. [When
the doctor observed Edna during the horse race, he did not notice any trouble in her features.]
Mr. Pontellier himself had no particular leaning toward horse-racing, and was even rather inclined to
discourage it as a pastime, especially when he considered the fate of that blue-grass farm in Kentucky. He
endeavored, in a general way, to express a particular disapproval, and only succeeded in arousing the ire
and opposition of his father-in-law. A pretty dispute followed, in which Edna warmly espoused her
father's cause and the Doctor remained neutral. [Edna likes horse racing whereas his husband doesn‟t
and does not even approve of what his wife likes. There is not any shared hobby between them.]
He observed his hostess attentively from under his shaggy brows, and noted a subtle change which had
transformed her from the listless woman he had known into a being who, for the moment, seemed
palpitant with the forces of life. Her speech was warm and energetic. There was no repression in her
glance or gesture. She reminded him of some beautiful, sleek animal waking up in the sun. [The doctor is
a psychologist who noticed that Edna is different in her attitude from the time he saw her before; she
seems to be livelier and more energetic, because she is discovering her own self.]
Nor was the Doctor happier in his selection, when he told the old, ever new and curious story of the
waning of a woman's love, seeking strange, new channels, only to return to its legitimate source after
days of fierce unrest. It was one of the many little human documents which had been unfolded to him
during his long career as a physician. The story did not seem especially to impress Edna. She had one of
her own to tell, of a woman who paddled away with her lover one night in a pirogue and never came
back. They were lost amid the Baratarian Islands, and no one ever heard of them or found trace of them
from that day to this. It was a pure invention. She said that Madame Antoine had related it to her. That,
also, was an invention. Perhaps it was a dream she had had. But every glowing word seemed real to
those who listened. They could feel the hot breath of the Southern night; they could hear the long sweep
of the pirogue through the glistening moonlit water. "I hope it isn't Arobin," he muttered to himself as he
walked. "I hope to heaven it isn't Alcée Arobin." [The doctor relates the story of a married woman
who had a lover, she ran away with him but she was forced to return to her husband. Edna did
not like the story and fabricated a similar one wherein the woman escaped with her lover leaving
her husband behind. She told her story enthusiastically having in mind to irritate and to tease her
husband. However, the doctor guessed that she might be having a relationship and hoped that it
was not with Alcee Arobin because of his bad reputation.]
In this chapter, Edna‟s father tries to convince her to attend her sister‟s wedding but she refused.
He resorted to her husband blaming him for his lenience and asking him to behave like a man.
Edna‟s father was very oppressive and caused the death of his wife it seems.
Edna and her father had a warm and almost violent dispute upon the subject of her refusal to attend her
sister's wedding. Mr. Pontellier declined to interfere, to interpose either his influence or his authority. He
was following Doctor Mandelet's advice, and letting her do as she liked.
The Colonel reproached his daughter for her lack of filial kindness and respect, her want of sisterly
affection and womanly consideration. His arguments were labored and unconvincing. He doubted if Janet
would accept any excuse -- forgetting that Edna had offered none. He doubted if Janet would ever speak
to her again, and he was sure Margaret would not.
Edna was glad to be rid of her father when he finally took himself off with his wedding garments and his
bridal gifts, with his padded shoulders, his Bible reading, his "toddies" / drinks and ponderous oaths.
Mr. Pontellier followed him closely. He meant to stop at the wedding on his way to New York and
endeavor by every means which money and love could devise to atone somewhat for Edna's
incomprehensible action. "You are too lenient, too lenient by far, Léonce," asserted the Colonel.
"Authority, coercion are what is needed. Put your foot down good and hard; the only way to manage a
wife. Take my word for it." The Colonel was perhaps unaware that he had coerced his own wife into her
grave. Mr. Pontellier had a vague suspicion of it which he thought it needless to mention at that late day.
Edna was not so consciously gratified at her husband's leaving home as she had been over the departure
of her father. As the day approached when he was to leave her for a comparatively long stay, she grew
melting and affectionate, remembering his many acts of consideration and his repeated expressions of an
ardent attachment. She was solicitous about his health and his welfare. She bustled around, looking after
his clothing, thinking about heavy underwear, quite as Madame Ratignolle would have done under
similar circumstances. She cried when he went away, calling him her dear, good friend, and she was
quite certain she would grow lonely before very long and go to join him in New York. [Edna is human for
she got her ups and downs. She fluctuates in her emotions, because her husband was sometimes nice to
her providing her with all her material needs. She cares for him in a certain way and likes certain things in
his personality although she hates other things in him.]
But after all, a radiant peace settled upon her when she at last found herself alone. Even the children
were gone. Old Madame Pontellier had come herself and carried them off to Iberville with their
quadroon. The old Madame did not venture to say she was afraid they would be neglected during
Léonce's absence; she hardly ventured to think so. She was hungry for them -- even a little fierce in her
attachment. She did not want them to be wholly "children of the pavement," she always said when
begging to have them for a space. She wished them to know the country, with its streams, its fields, its
woods, its freedom, so delicious to the young. She wished them to taste something of the life their father
had lived and known and loved when he, too, was a little child. When Edna was at last alone, she
breathed a big, genuine sigh of relief. A feeling that was unfamiliar but very delicious came over her. She
walked all through the house, from one room to another, as if inspecting it for the first time. [Edna‟s
mother-in-law took the children to her house because she thought Edna was unable to take care of them.
She was now alone & feels free because she is herself developing her talents & looking at nature happily.]
She thought a little sentimentally about Léonce and the children, and wondered what they were doing. As
she gave a dainty scrap or two to the doggie, she talked intimately to him about Etienne and Raoul. Then
Edna sat in the library after dinner and read Emerson until she grew sleepy. She realized that she had
neglected her reading, and determined to start anew upon a course of improving studies, now that her
time was completely her own to do with as she liked. [Edna missed her children sometimes and started to
do things she liked as reading; she read Emerson because he emphasized on individuality, contemplation
After, Edna goes on a second relationship but a sensual one with Alcee Arobin. He was very
skilful in attracting women and had a bad reputation. Many people warned Edna of him but she
did not care. She was not in love but attracted to him because he had talents in talking to women.
Edna met Alcée once at the horse race. He accompanied her home after the race and found
excuses to stay with her. He appealed to her sexual instincts. Edna was looking for new
experiences and wanted to challenge society, she wanted to be different. The scar she saw on
Alcée‟s hand bothered her maybe because it reminded her of her first night of marriage.
On rainy or melancholy days Edna went out and sought the society of the friends she had made at Grand
Isle. Or else she stayed indoors and nursed a mood with which she was becoming too familiar for her
own comfort and peace of mind. It was not despair; but it seemed to her as if life were passing by, leaving
its promise broken and unfulfilled. Yet there were other days when she listened, was led on and deceived
by fresh promises which her youth held out to her. [We can notice the fluctuations in Edna‟s attitude].
Alcée Arobin was one of those who went to the horse race. He was a familiar figure at the race course,
the opera, the fashionable clubs. There was a perpetual smile in his eyes, which seldom failed to awaken
a corresponding cheerfulness in any one who looked into them and listened to his good-humored voice.
His manner was quiet, and at times a little insolent. He possessed a good figure, a pleasing face, not
overburdened with depth of thought or feeling; and his dress was that of the conventional man of fashion.
He admired Edna extravagantly, after meeting her at the races with her father. He had met her before on
other occasions, but she had seemed to him unapproachable until that day. It was at his instigation that
Mrs. Highcamp called to ask her to go with them to the Jockey Club to witness the turf event of the
The fever of the game flamed in her cheeks and eves, and it got into her blood and into her brain like an
intoxicant. People turned their heads to look at her, and more than one lent an attentive car to her
utterances, hoping thereby to secure the elusive but ever-desired "tip." Arobin caught the contagion of
excitement which drew him to Edna like a magnet. Mrs. Highcamp remained, as usual, unmoved, with her
indifferent stare and uplifted eyebrows. [Edna likes horse racing and was very enthusiastic about it.]
It was Arobin who took her home. The car ride was long, and it was late when they reached Esplanade
Street. Arobin asked permission to enter for a second to light his cigarette -- his match safe was empty.
He filled his match safe, but did not light his cigarette until he left her, after she had expressed her
willingness to go to the races with him again. [Arobin knew how to attract her gradually.]
She wanted something to happen -- something, anything; she did not know what. She regretted that she
had not made Arobin stay a half hour to talk over the horses with her. She counted the money she had
won. But there was nothing else to do, so she went to bed, and tossed there for hours in a sort of
monotonous agitation. [Edna was seeking experience being after a lively life but still she kept writing
letters to her husband.]
In the middle of the night she remembered that she had forgotten to write her regular letter to her
husband; and she decided to do so next day and tell him about her afternoon at the Jockey Club. The
afternoon was intensely interesting to her. The excitement came back upon her like a remittent fever. Her
talk grew familiar and confidential. It was no labor to become intimate with Arobin. His manner invited
easy confidence. The preliminary stage of becoming acquainted was one which he always endeavored to
ignore when a pretty and engaging woman was concerned. [She was attracted to Arobin.]
He stayed and dined with Edna. He stayed and sat beside the wood fire. They laughed and talked; and
before it was time to go he was telling her how different life might have been if he had known her years
before. With ingenuous frankness he spoke of what a wicked, ill-disciplined boy he had been, and
impulsively drew up his cuff to exhibit upon his wrist the scar from a saber cut which he had received in a
duel outside of Paris when he was nineteen. She touched his hand as she scanned the red cicatrice on the
inside of his white wrist. A quick impulse that was somewhat spasmodic impelled her fingers to close in a
sort of clutch upon his hand. He felt the pressure of her pointed nails in the flesh of his palm. She arose
hastily and walked toward the mantel. "The sight of a wound or scar always agitates and sickens me," she
said. "I shouldn't have looked at it." [The scar she noticed on Alcee‟s hand bothered her maybe because it
reminded her of the first night of marriage.]
He stood close to her, and the effrontery in his eyes repelled the old, vanishing self in her, yet drew all
her awakening sensuousness. He saw enough in her face to impel him to take her hand and hold it while
he said his lingering good night.
"Will you go to the races again?" he asked. "No," she said. "I've had enough of the races. I don't want to
lose all the money I've won, and I've got to work when the weather is bright, instead of -- " "Yes; work; to
be sure. You promised to show me your work. What morning may I come up to your atelier? To-
morrow?" "No!" "Day after?" "No, no." "Oh, please don't refuse me! I know something of such things. I
might help you with a stray suggestion or two." "No. Good night. Why don't you go after you have said
good night? I don't like you," she went on in a high, excited pitch, attempting to draw away her hand. She
felt that her words lacked dignity and sincerity, and she knew that he felt it. [Although Edna was attracted
to him, she was not sure that she was doing the right thing (inner-conflict)].
"I'm sorry you don't like me. I'm sorry I offended you. How have I offended you? What have I done? Can't
you forgive me?" And he bent and pressed his lips upon her hand as if he wished never more to withdraw
them. "Mr. Arobin," she complained, "I'm greatly upset by the excitement of the afternoon; I'm not myself.
My manner must have misled you in some way. I wish you to go, please." She spoke in a monotonous, dull
tone. He took his hat from the table, and stood with eyes turned from her, looking into the dying fire. For
a moment or two he kept an impressive silence.
"Your manner has not misled me, Mrs. Pontellier," he said finally. "My own emotions have done that. I
couldn't help it. When I'm near you, how could I help it? Don't think anything of it, don't bother, please.
You see, I go when you command me. If you wish me to stay away, I shall do so. If you let me come back,
I -- oh! you will let me come back?" [Arobin was very insistent with Edna; he did not give up easily,
because he knew that she was attracted to him.]
Edna did not care or think whether it were genuine or not. When she was alone she looked mechanically
at the back of her hand which he had kissed so warmly. Then she leaned her head down on the
mantelpiece. She felt somewhat like a woman who in a moment of passion is betrayed into an act of
infidelity, and realizes the significance of the act without being wholly awakened from its glamour. The
thought was passing vaguely through her mind, "What would he think?" She did not mean her husband;
she was thinking of Robert Lebrun. Her husband seemed to her now like a person whom she had married
without love as an excuse. She lit a candle and went up to her room. Alcée Arobin was absolutely nothing
to her. Yet his presence, his manners, the warmth of his glances, and above all the touch of his lips upon
her hand had acted like a narcotic upon her. [Edna felt that she was betraying Robert and not her husband
and here lies the tension inside or within her. To the romantics, love is more important than marriage.]
Arobin knew how to deal with Edna and wrote her a note of apology. He is even talking to her
sensually about sexual matters. Freud said that we do not have control over our sexual instincts
and the Naturalists believed that our instinct can even rule our lives. Edna was seeking a room of
her own so she moved into a small house called “the pigeon house” – sign of her independence.
Edna went to see Miss Reisz and for the first time she drank alcohol from a bottle like a man.
She does not want to belong to any man [a feminist theme]. Edna and Miss Reisz do not agree on
the same idea of marriage. For Edna when someone falls in love he does not think of anything.
Miss Reisz asked her why she loves Robert when she ought not to but she couldn‟t explain why.
Alcée Arobin wrote Edna an elaborate note of apology, palpitant with sincerity. It embarrassed her; for
in a cooler, quieter moment it appeared to her, absurd that she should have taken his action so seriously,
He responded at once by presenting himself at her home with all his disarming naïveté. And then there
was scarcely a day which followed that she did not see him or was not reminded of him. He was prolific /
creative in pretexts.
His attitude became one of good-humored subservience and tacit adoration. He was ready at all times to
submit to her moods, which were as often kind as they were cold. She grew accustomed to him. They
became intimate and friendly by imperceptible degrees, and then by leaps. He sometimes talked in a way
that astonished her at first and brought the crimson into her face; in a way that pleased her at last,
appealing to the animalism that stirred impatiently within her.
There was nothing which so quieted the turmoil of Edna's senses as a visit to Mademoiselle Reisz. It was
then, in the presence of that personality which was offensive to her, that the woman, by her divine art,
seemed to reach Edna's spirit and set it free.
"I will take some brandy," said Edna, shivering as she removed her gloves and overshoes. She drank the
liquor from the glass as a man would have done. Then flinging herself upon the uncomfortable sofa she
said, "Mademoiselle, I am going to move away from my house on Esplanade Street."
"Ah!" ejaculated the musician, neither surprised nor especially interested. Nothing ever seemed to
astonish her very much. She was endeavoring to adjust the bunch of violets which had become loose from
its fastening in her hair. Edna drew her down upon the sofa, and taking a pin from her own hair, secured
the shabby artificial flowers in their accustomed place.
"What does your husband say?" "I have not told him yet. I only thought of it this morning. He will think I
am demented, no doubt. Perhaps you think so." Mademoiselle shook her head slowly. "Your reason is not
yet clear to me," she said. Neither was it quite clear to Edna herself; but it unfolded itself as she sat for a
while in silence. Instinct had prompted her to put away her husband's bounty in casting off her
allegiance. She did not know how it would be when he returned. There would have to be an
understanding, an explanation. Conditions would some way adjust themselves, she felt; but whatever
came, she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself. [Edna believes that she is not
something to be possessed]
"I shall give a grand dinner before I leave the old house!" Edna exclaimed. "You will have to come to it,
Mademoiselle. I will give you everything that you like to eat and to drink. We shall sing and laugh and be
merry for once." And she uttered a sigh that came from the very depths of her being.
If Mademoiselle happened to have received a letter from Robert during the interval of Edna's visits, she
would give her the letter unsolicited. And she would seat herself at the piano and play as her humor
prompted her while the young woman read the letter. Tell me, Mademoiselle, does he know that I see his
letters?" "Never in the world! He would be angry and would never write to me again if he thought so.
Does he write to you? Never a line. Does he send you a message? Never a word. It is because he loves
you, poor fool, and is trying to forget you, since you are not free to listen to him or to belong to him."
Edna did not at once read the letter. She sat holding it in her hand, while the music penetrated her whole
being like an effulgence, warming and brightening the dark places of her soul. It prepared her for joy and
exultation. [The effect of music on Edna is shown in this passage.]
"Now it is you who are telling lies and seeking to deceive me, Mademoiselle; or else you have never been
in love, and know nothing about it. Why," went on Edna, clasping her knees and looking up into
Mademoiselle's twisted face, "do you suppose a woman knows why she loves? Does she select? Does she
say to herself: 'Go to! Here is a distinguished statesman with presidential possibilities; I shall proceed to
fall in love with him.' Or, 'I shall set my heart upon this musician, whose fame is on every tongue?' Or,
'This financier, who controls the world's money markets?' [Love is blind and we do not plan for it
according to Edna.]
It was the first time she had admitted it, and a glow overspread her face, blotching it with red spots.
"Why?" asked her companion. "Why do you love him when you ought not to?" Edna, with a motion or
two, dragged herself on her knees before Mademoiselle Reisz, who took the glowing face between her two
hands. "Why? Because his hair is brown and grows away from his temples; because he opens and shuts
his eyes, and his nose is a little out of drawing; because he has two lips and a square chin, and a little
finger which he can't straighten from having played baseball too energetically in his youth. Because – ―
"Because you do, in short," laughed Mademoiselle. "What will you do when he comes back?" she asked.
"Do? Nothing, except feel glad and happy to be alive." She was already glad and happy to be alive at the
mere thought of his return. The murky, lowering sky, which had depressed her a few hours before, seemed
bracing and invigorating as she splashed through the streets on her way home. [Even Mrs. Reisz told
Edna that she is not supposed to love Robert while Edna believed that one cannot really say why he/she
loves someone and not someone else].
She stopped at a confectioner's and ordered a huge box of bonbons for the children in Iberville. She
slipped a card in the box, on which she scribbled a tender message and sent an abundance of kisses.
Before dinner in the evening Edna wrote a charming letter to her husband, telling him of her intention to
move for a while into the little house around the block, and to give a farewell dinner before leaving,
regretting that he was not there to share it, to help out with the menu and assist her in entertaining the
guests. Her letter was brilliant and brimming with cheerfulness. [Edna has feelings towards her husband.]
Edna‟s relationship with Alcée Arobin is becoming more intimate. She thinks that she is a
devilish person. According to Freud, people sometimes are drawn by their instincts to do things
they don‟t usually do. When Alcée kissed her, she felt, for the first time her whole body
responding to the kiss.
"What is the matter with you?" asked Arobin that evening. "I never found you in such a happy mood."
Edna was tired by that time, and was reclining on the lounge before the fire. "Don't you know the weather
prophet has told us we shall see the sun pretty soon?" "Well, that ought to be reason enough," he
acquiesced. "You wouldn't give me another if I sat here all night imploring you." He sat close to her on a
low tabouret, and as he spoke his fingers lightly touched the hair that fell a little over her forehead. She
liked the touch of his fingers through her hair, and closed her eyes sensitively. [She is falling in his traps.]
"One of these days," she said, "I'm going to pull myself together for a while and think -- try to determine
what character of a woman I am; for, candidly, I don't know. By all the codes which I am acquainted
with, I am a devilishly wicked specimen of the sex. But some way I can't convince myself that I am. I must
think about it." [Edna knows deep down that what she is doing is wrong.]
"Well, for instance, when I left her today, she put her arms around me and felt my shoulder blades, to see
if my wings were strong, she said. '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.'
She only looked at him and smiled. His eyes were very near. He leaned upon the lounge with an arm
extended across her, while the other hand still rested upon her hair. They continued silently to look into
each other's eyes. When he leaned forward and kissed her, she clasped his head, holding his lips to hers.
It was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch that
kindled desire. [According to some feminists, the relationship Edna had with her husband was not
satisfying and this is why she is behaving in this way.]
There are hints that they had a sexual relationship, but Edna did not feel any regret, remorse or
shame. She slept with Alcée out of instinct, but she would‟ve preferred to sleep with Robert out
Edna cried a little that night after Arobin left her. It was only one phase of the multitudinous emotions
which had assailed her. There was with her an overwhelming feeling of irresponsibility. There was the
shock of the unexpected and the unaccustomed. There was her husband's reproach looking at her from
the external things around her which he had provided for her external existence. There was Robert's
reproach making itself felt by a quicker, fiercer, more overpowering love, which had awakened within her
toward him. Above all, there was understanding. She felt as if a mist had been lifted from her eyes,
enabling her to took upon and comprehend the significance of life, that monster made up of beauty and
brutality. But among the conflicting sensations which assailed her, there was neither shame nor remorse.
There was a dull pang of regret because it was not the kiss of love which had inflamed her, because it was
not love which had held this cup of life to her lips.
Edna did not take to her new house any of her husband‟s belongings. She organized a party and
invited many of her friends to celebrate her 29th birthday.
Whatever was her own in the house, everything which she had acquired aside from her husband's bounty;
she caused to be transported to the other house, supplying simple and meager deficiencies from her own
"When shall I see you?" asked Arobin, seeking to detain her, the maid having left the room. "At the
dinner, of course. You are invited." "Not before? -- Not to-night or to-morrow morning or tomorrow noon
or night? Or the day after morning or noon? Can't you see yourself, without my telling you, what an
eternity it is?" He had followed her into the hall and to the foot of the stairway, looking up at her as she
mounted with her face half turned to him.
Chapter 30 is very important, it contains many feminist issues. They argue that Edna feels like
Aphrodite. In the party Victor, Robert‟s brother, started to sing a song that reminded Edna of
Robert; she became angry and shut him up.
"Quite new; 'brand' new, in fact; a present from my husband. It arrived this morning from New York. I
may as well admit that this is my birthday, and that I am twenty-nine. In good time I expect you to drink
my health. Meanwhile, I shall ask you to begin with this cocktail, composed -- would you say
'composed?'" with an appeal to Miss Mayblunt –
There was something in her attitude, in her whole appearance when she leaned her head against the
high-backed chair and spread her arms, which suggested the regal woman, the one who rules, who looks
on, who stands alone. But as she sat there amid her guests, she felt the old ennui overtaking her; the
hopelessness which so often assailed her, which came upon her like an obsession, like something
extraneous, independent of volition. [These people did not interest her and we perceive the fluctuations in
"Yes, I'll sing for you," he said, turning in his chair toward Mrs. Highcamp. He clasped his hands behind
his head, and looking up at the ceiling began to hum a little, trying his voice like a musician tuning an
instrument. Then, looking at Edna, he began to sing: "Ah! si tu savais!"
"Stop!" she cried, "don't sing that. I don't want you to sing it," and she laid her glass so impetuously and
blindly upon the table as to shatter it against a carafe. The wine spilled over Arobin's legs and some of it
trickled down upon Mrs. Highcamp's black gauze gown. Victor had lost all idea of courtesy, or else he
thought his hostess was not in earnest, for he laughed and went on:
"Ah! Si tu savais
Ce que tes yeux me disent" –
"Oh! You mustn't! You mustn't," exclaimed Edna, and pushing back her chair she got up, and going
behind him placed her hand over his mouth. He kissed the soft palm that pressed upon his lips.
The day after the party, Edna moved to her small “pigeon house”. Once again, Edna submitted to
Alcee‟s sensuality. He was always physically in touch with her.
Edna seated herself with every appearance of discomfort. "Are you tired?" he asked. "Yes, and chilled, and
miserable. I feel as if I had been wound up to a certain pitch -- too tight -- and something inside of me had
snapped." She rested her head against the table upon her bare arm. "You want to rest," he said, "and to be quiet. I'll
go; I'll leave you and let you rest." "Yes," she replied. He stood up beside her and smoothed her hair with his soft,
magnetic hand. His touch conveyed to her a certain physical comfort. She could have fallen quietly asleep there if he
had continued to pass his hand over her hair.
"I thought you were going away," she said, in an uneven voice. "I am, after I have said good night." "Good night,"
she murmured. He did not answer, except to continue to caress her. He did not say good night until she had become
supple to his gentle, seductive entreaties.
Mr. Pontellier was informed that Edna moved to a small house and was mainly worried what people
would say about their economic situation. To save appearances, he puts an ad in a newspaper that
they moved to a small house to renovate their big one. Although Edna is living in a smaller house,
her spiritual values have become higher but she misses her children.
When Mr. Pontellier learned of his wife's intention to abandon her home and take up her residence elsewhere,
he immediately wrote her a letter of unqualified disapproval and remonstrance. She had given reasons which
he was unwilling to acknowledge as adequate. He hoped she had not acted upon her rash impulse; and he
begged her to consider first, foremost, and above all else, what people would say. He was not dreaming of
scandal when he uttered this warning; that was a thing which would never have entered into his mind to
consider in connection with his wife's name or his own. He was simply thinking of his financial integrity.
Furthermore, in one of the daily papers appeared a brief notice to the effect that Mr. and Mrs. Pontellier were
contemplating a summer sojourn abroad, and that their handsome residence on Esplanade Street was
undergoing sumptuous alterations, and would not be ready for occupancy until their return. Mr. Pontellier had
saved appearances! There was with her a feeling of having descended in the social scale, with a corresponding
sense of having risen in the spiritual. Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations
added to her strength and expansion as an individual. She began to look with her own eyes; to see and to
apprehend the deeper undercurrents of life. No longer was she content to "feed upon opinion" when her own
soul had invited her. [Now, she is living for herself and she acts the way she wants.]
How glad she was to see the children! She wept for very pleasure when she felt their little arms clasping her;
their hard, ruddy cheeks pressed against her own glowing cheeks. She looked into their faces with hungry eyes
that could not be satisfied with looking. And what stories they had to tell their mother! About the pigs, the
cows, the mules! About riding to the mill behind Gluglu; fishing back in the lake with their Uncle Jasper;
picking pecans with Lidie's little black brood, and hauling chips in their express wagon. It was a thousand
times more fun to haul real chips for old lame Susie's real fire than to drag painted blocks along the banquette
on Esplanade Street!
She went with them herself to see the pigs and the cows, to look at the darkies laying the cane, to thrash the
pecan trees, and catch fish in the back lake. She lived with them a whole week long, giving them all of herself,
and gathering and filling herself with their young existence. They listened, breathless, when she told them the
house in Esplanade Street was crowded with workmen, hammering, nailing, sawing, and filling the place with
clatter. They wanted. to know where their bed was; what had been done with their rocking-horse; and where
did Joe sleep, and where had Ellen gone, and the cook? But, above all, they were fired with a desire to see the
little house around the block. Was there any place to play? Were there any boys next door? Raoul, with
pessimistic foreboding, was convinced that there were only girls next door. Where would they sleep, and where
would papa sleep? She told them the fairies would fix it all right. [Edna liked her children, but she didn‟t want
to sacrifice her own self to anyone.]
The old Madame was charmed with Edna's visit, and showered all manner of delicate attentions upon her. She
was delighted to know that the Esplanade Street house was in a dismantled condition. It gave her the promise
and pretext to keep the children indefinitely. It was with a wrench and a pang that Edna left her children. She
carried away with her the sound of their voices and the touch of their cheeks. All along the journey homeward
their presence lingered with her like the memory of a delicious song. But by the time she had regained the city
the song no longer echoed in her soul. She was again alone.
Edna visited Miss Reisz again to talk to her about Robert. One her way, she met Adèle who blamed her
for her behavior with Alcée warning her that people started to gossip especially that Arobin has a bad
reputation. Edna believed that he is a decent fellow. While at Miss Reisz‟ Robert arrived and both were
shocked. He was avoiding her because he loved her and knew that they cannot be together because she is
married. When Edna realized that he only came back because he didn‟t like Mexico and not because he
missed her, she became angry. She invited him to her place and he came. While there, he saw the picture
of Alcee and was surprised. He told her that while in Mexico, he was always thinking of her and the times
they spent together. She told him that she also was. Alcée came in and Robert left.
When she knocked at Mademoiselle Reisz's door one afternoon there was no response; so unlocking the door, as
usual, she entered and found the apartment deserted, as she had expected. Her day had been quite filled up, and it
was for a rest, for a refuge and to talk about Robert, that she sought out her friend. Madame Ratignolle had dragged
herself over, avoiding the too public thoroughfares, she said. She complained that Edna had neglected her much of
late. "In some way you seem to me like a child, Edna. You seem to act without a certain amount of reflection which
is necessary in this life. That is the reason I want to say you mustn't mind if I advise you to be a little careful while
you are living here alone. Why don't you have some one come and stay with you? Wouldn't Mademoiselle Reisz
come?" "No; she wouldn't wish to come, and I shouldn't want her always with me." "Well, the reason -- you know
how evil-minded the world is -- some one was talking of Alcée Arobin visiting you. Of course, it wouldn't matter if
Mr. Arobin had not such a dreadful reputation. Monsieur Ratignolle was telling me that his attentions alone are
considered enough to ruin a woman s name." "Does he boast of his successes?" asked Edna, indifferently, squinting
at her picture. "No, I think not. I believe he is a decent fellow as far as that goes. But his character is so well known
among the men. I shan't be able to come back and see you; it was very, very imprudent to-day."
Late in the afternoon she sought refuge with Mademoiselle Reisz, and stayed there alone, waiting for her, feeling a
kind of repose invade her with the very atmosphere of the shabby, unpretentious little room. "Come in," she called,
turning her face toward the door. And this time it was Robert Lebrun who presented himself. She attempted to rise;
she could not have done so without betraying the agitation which mastered her at sight of him, so she fell back upon
the stool, only exclaiming, "Why, Robert!" He came and clasped her hand, seemingly without knowing what he was
saying or doing. "Mrs. Pontellier! How do you happen -- oh! how well you look! Is Mademoiselle Reisz not here? I
never expected to see you." "When did you come back?" asked Edna in an unsteady voice, wiping her face with her
handkerchief. She seemed ill at ease on the piano stool, and he begged her to take the chair by the window. She did
so, mechanically, while he seated himself on the stool. "I returned day before yesterday," he answered, while he
leaned his arm on the keys, bringing forth a crash of discordant sound. "Day before yesterday!" she repeated,
aloud; and went on thinking to herself, "day before yesterday," in a sort of an uncomprehending way. She had
pictured him seeking her at the very first hour, and he had lived under the same sky since day before yesterday;
while only by accident had he stumbled upon her. Mademoiselle must have lied when she said, "Poor fool, he loves
you." "Day before yesterday," she repeated, breaking off a spray of Mademoiselle's geranium; "then if you had not
met me here to-day you wouldn't -- when -- that is, didn't you mean to come and see me?" [Robert surprised her
when he came to visit Ms. Reisz and not Edna.]
So he had come back because the Mexicans were not congenial; because business was as profitable here as there;
because of any reason, and not because he cared to be near her. She remembered the day she sat on the floor,
turning the pages of his letter, seeking the reason which was left untold. [Edna loves him]
She found in his eyes, when he looked at her for one silent moment, the same tender caress, with an added warmth
and entreaty which had not been there before the same glance which had penetrated to the sleeping places of her
soul and awakened them. When she reentered, Robert was turning over magazines, sketches, and things that lay
upon the table in great disorder. He picked up a photograph, and exclaimed: "Alcée Arobin! What on earth is his
picture doing here?" "I tried to make a sketch of his head one day," answered Edna, "and he thought the
photograph might help me. It was at the other house. I thought it had been left there. I must have packed it up with
my drawing materials." "I should think you would give it back to him if you have finished with it." "Oh! I have a
great many such photographs. I never think of returning them. They don't amount to anything." Robert kept on
looking at the picture. "It seems to me -- do you think his head worth drawing? Is he a friend of Mr. Pontellier's?
You never said you knew him." "He isn't a friend of Mr. Pontellier's; he's a friend of mine. I always knew him -- that
is, it is only of late that I know him pretty well. But I'd rather talk about you, and know what you have been seeing
and doing and feeling out there in Mexico." Robert threw aside the picture.
"And what have you been seeing and doing and feeling all these days?" he asked. "I've been seeing the waves and
the white beach of Grand Isle; the quiet, grassy street of the Chênière Caminada; the old sunny fort at Grande
Terre. I've been working with a little more comprehension than a machine, and still feeling like a lost soul. There
was nothing interesting."
Session 9 - Thursday January 24, 2008
Robert came back and met with Edna who was a little jealous when she knew that a Mexican
woman gave him a tobacco pouch and then Alcée Arobin met with both of them. It is absurd that
Edna had a relationship with both men at the same time. Edna really loved Robert, but she was
not quite confident if he loved her as much as she did. She remembered every single moment she
spent with him while she observed some reserve in his attitude towards her.
"You never tire me. You must have forgotten the hours and hours at Grand Isle in which we grew
accustomed to each other and used to being together." "I have forgotten nothing at Grand Isle," he said,
not looking at her, but rolling a cigarette. His tobacco pouch, which he laid upon the table, was a
fantastic embroidered silk affair, evidently the handiwork of a woman.
"Did you visit at her house? Was it interesting? I should like to know and hear about the people you met,
and the impressions they made on you." "There are some people who leave impressions not so lasting as
the imprint of an oar upon the water."
"But not well enough to keep you there. Stunning girls, though, in Mexico. I thought I should never get
away from Vera Cruz when I was down there a couple of years ago." "Did they embroider slippers and
tobacco pouches and hat-bands and things for you?" asked Edna. "Oh! my! no! I didn't get so deep in
their regard. I fear they made more impression on me than I made on them." "You were less fortunate
than Robert, then." "I am always less fortunate than Robert. Has he been imparting tender confidences?"
"I've been imposing myself long enough," said Robert and left.
"No; I don't want to do anything but just be quiet. You go away and amuse yourself. Don't stay." "I'll go
away if I must; but I shan't amuse myself. You know that I only live when I am near you." He stood up to
bid her good night. "Is that one of the things you always say to women?" "I have said it before, but I don't
think I ever came so near meaning it," he answered with a smile. There were no warm lights in her eyes;
only a dreamy, absent look. "Good night. I adore you. Sleep well," he said, and he kissed her hand and
went away. [Edna doesn‟t want Alcee to stay here because she wants to be with Robert.]
She stayed alone in a kind of reverie -- a sort of stupor. Step by step she lived over every instant of the
time she had been with Robert after he had entered Mademoiselle Reisz's door. She recalled his words,
his looks. How few and meager they had been for her hungry heart! A vision -- a transcendently seductive
vision of a Mexican girl arose before her. She writhed with a jealous pang. She wondered when he would
come back. He had not said he would come back. She had been with him, had heard his voice and
touched his hand. But some way he had seemed nearer to her off there in Mexico.
Edna couldn‟t really believe that Robert loved her as much as she did. She still hopes that they
can be together. She was kind of obsessed with his love and felt she was at the mercy of fate. It is
as if Edna has two personalities – the sensual one and the emotional one. She had repressed her
feelings and desires for a long time, but now comes the person that knew how to stir her instincts
The morning was full of sunlight and hope. Edna could see before her no denial -- only the promise of
excessive joy. She lay in bed awake, with bright eyes full of speculation. "He loves you, poor fool." If she
could but get that conviction firmly fixed in her mind, what mattered about the rest? She felt she had been
childish and unwise the night before in giving herself over to despondency. She recapitulated the motives
which no doubt explained Robert's reserve. They were not insurmountable; they would not hold if he
really loved her; they could not hold against her own passion, which he must come to realize in time. She
pictured him going to his business that morning. She even saw how he was dressed; how he walked down
one street, and turned the corner of another; saw him bending over his desk, talking to people who
entered the office, going to his lunch, and perhaps watching for her on the street. He would come to her
in the afternoon or evening, sit and roll his cigarette, talk a little, and go away as she had done the night
before. But how delicious it would be to have him there with her! She would have no regrets, nor seek to
penetrate his reserve if he still chose to wear it.
A letter also came from her husband, saying he hoped to be back early in March, and then they would get
ready for that journey abroad which he had promised her so long, which he felt now fully able to afford;
he felt able to travel as people should, without any thought of small economies -- thanks to his recent
speculations in Wall Street.
She answered her husband with friendly evasiveness, -- not with any fixed design to mislead him, only
because all sense of reality had gone out of her life; she had abandoned herself to Fate, and awaited the
consequences with indifference.
Robert did not come that day. She was keenly disappointed. He did not come the following day, nor the
next. Each morning she awoke with hope, and each night she was a prey to despondency. She was
tempted to seek him out. But far from yielding to the impulse, she avoided any occasion which might
throw her in his way. She did not go to Mademoiselle Reisz's nor pass by Madame Lebrun's, as she might
have done if he had still been in Mexico. [Robert was avoiding Edna; he seems more realistic than her,
because she is a married woman.]
It was late when he left her. It was getting to be more than a passing whim with Arobin to see her and be
with her. He had detected the latent / hidden sensuality, which unfolded under his delicate sense of her
nature's requirements like a torpid, torrid, sensitive blossom. There was no despondency when she fell
asleep that night; nor was there hope when she awoke in the morning.
Edna met Robert accidentally in a small café. She asks him to stay and eat dinner with her. She
was trying to be reserved, but when she saw him she couldn‟t resist him and thought that
Providence sent him to her. She even told him that she loved him and kissed him. It seems she
viewed love as more sacred than marriage. Now Edna is courageous enough to express her
feelings towards Robert who told her that he would have married her but she was not free.
"I am destined to see you only by accident," she said, shoving the cat off the chair beside her. He was
surprised, ill at ease, almost embarrassed at meeting her thus so unexpectedly. "Do you come here
often?" he asked. "I almost live here," she said. "I used to drop in very often for a cup of Catiche's good
coffee. This is the first time since I came back."
"She'll bring you a plate, and you will share my dinner. There's always enough for two -- even three."
Edna had intended to be indifferent and as reserved as he when she met him; she had reached the
determination by a laborious train of reasoning, incident to one of her despondent moods. But her resolve
melted when she saw him before her, seated there beside her in the little garden, as if a designing
Providence had led him into her path. "Why have you kept away from me, Robert?" she asked, closing the
book that lay open upon the table.
"Why are you so personal, Mrs. Pontellier? Why do you force me to idiotic subterfuges?" he exclaimed
with sudden warmth. "I suppose there's no use telling you I've been very busy, or that I've been sick, or
that I've been to see you and not found you at home. Please let me off with any one of these excuses."
"You are the embodiment of selfishness," she said. "You save yourself something -- I don't know what --
but there is some selfish motive, and in sparing yourself you never consider for a moment what I think, or
how I feel your neglect and indifference. I suppose this is what you would call unwomanly; but I have got
into a habit of expressing myself. It doesn't matter to me, and you may think me unwomanly if you like."
"No; I only think you cruel, as I said the other day. Maybe not intentionally cruel; but you seem to be
forcing me into disclosures which can result in nothing; as if you would have me bare a wound for the
pleasure of looking at it, without the intention or power of healing it."
I don't mind walking. I always feel so sorry for women who don't like to walk; they miss so much -- so
many rare little glimpses of life; and we women learn so little of life on the whole. [In the past, women
were not allowed to walk alone, but Edna is compensating the things that she didn‟t do before.]
She leaned over and kissed him -- a soft, cool, delicate kiss, whose voluptuous sting penetrated his whole
being – then she moved away from him. He followed, and took her in his arms, just holding her close to
him. She put her hand up to his face and pressed his cheek against her own. The action was full of love
and tenderness. He sought her lips again. Then he drew her down upon the sofa beside him and held her
hand in both of his. [We view physical intimacy and sensuality between Edna & Robert for the first time.]
"Now you know," he said, "now you know what I have been fighting against since last summer at Grand
Isle; what drove me away and drove me back again." "Why have you been fighting against it?" she asked.
Her face glowed with soft lights. "Why? Because you were not free; you were Léonce Pontellier's wife. I
couldn't help loving you if you were ten times his wife; but so long as I went away from you and kept
away I could help telling you so." She put her free hand up to his shoulder, and then against his cheek,
rubbing it softly. He kissed her again. His face was warm and flushed.
"There in Mexico I was thinking of you all the time, and longing for you." "But not writing to me," she
interrupted. "Something put into my head that you cared for me; and I lost my senses. I forgot everything
but a wild dream of your some way becoming my wife." "Your wife!" "Religion, loyalty, everything would
give way if only you cared." "Then you must have forgotten that I was Léonce Pontellier's wife." "Oh! I
was demented, dreaming of wild, impossible things, recalling men who had set their wives free, we have
heard of such things." "Yes, we have heard of such things." "I came back full of vague, mad intentions.
And when I got here -- " "When you got here you never came near me!" She was still caressing his cheek.
"I realized what a cur / bad-tempered dog / I was to dream of such a thing, even if you had been willing."
[Robert was fancying that he could have Edna and that her husband will leave her.]
She took his face between her hands and looked into it as if she would never withdraw her eyes more. She
kissed him on the forehead, the eyes, the cheeks, and the lips. "You have been a very, very foolish boy,
wasting your time dreaming of impossible things when you speak of Mr. Pontellier setting me free! I am
no longer one of Mr. Pontellier's possessions to dispose of or not. I give myself where I choose. If he were
to say, 'Here, Robert, take her and be happy; she is yours,' I should laugh at you both." [Edna is very
daring here. She confirms that she is not the possession of her husband, but it is her own decision that
counts if she wants to be with Robert.]
"Good-by, my sweet Robert, tell me good-by." He kissed her with a degree of passion which had not
before entered into his caress, and strained her to him. "I love you," she whispered, "only you; no one
but you. It was you who awoke me last summer out of a life-long, stupid dream. Oh! you have made me so
unhappy with your indifference. Oh! I have suffered, suffered! Now you are here we shall love each other,
my Robert. We shall be everything to each other. Nothing else in the world is of any consequence. I must
go to my friend; but you will wait for me? No matter how late; you will wait for me, Robert?" [Edna is
confessing to Robert how she exactly felt towards him. It seems she is not reserved any more.]
"Don't go; don't go! Oh! Edna, stay with me," he pleaded. "Why should you go? Stay with me, stay with
me." "I shall come back as soon as I can; I shall find you here." She buried her face in his neck, and said
good-by again. Her seductive voice, together with his great love for her, had enthralled his senses, had
deprived him of every impulse but the longing to hold her and keep her. [Robert does not want Edna to go
to Adele. He admits that he loved her the same way she did, but he is more realistic than her.]
She was still stunned and speechless with emotion when later she leaned over her friend to kiss her and
softly say good-by. Adèle, pressing her cheek, whispered in an exhausted voice: "Think of the children,
Edna. Oh think of the children! Remember them!" [Adèle is warning Edna not to forget her children.]
At Adele‟s house, Edna met with Dr. Mandelet who found her very emotional. Edna realizes that
by living as she desires, she is neglecting her children, this is what worried her. Robert left again
and wrote her a goodbye note. There is a tendency to create a myth out of marriage. Nature
wants us to make a myth out of marriage for the sake of humanity for the continuity of life.
"You shouldn't have been there, Mrs. Pontellier," he said. "That was no place for you. Adèle is full of
whims / (caprices or ups & downs) at such times. There were a dozen women she might have had with
her, unimpressionable women. I felt that it was cruel, cruel. You shouldn't have gone." "When is Léonce
coming back?" "Quite soon. Some time in March." "And you are going abroad?"
"Perhaps -- no, I am not going. I'm not going to be forced into doing things. I don't want to go abroad. I
want to be let alone. Nobody has any right -- except children, perhaps -- and even then, it seems to me --
or it did seem -- "She felt that her speech was voicing the incoherency of her thoughts, and stopped
"The trouble is," sighed the Doctor, grasping her meaning intuitively, "that youth is given up to illusions.
It seems to be a provision of Nature; a decoy to secure mothers for the race. And Nature takes no account
of moral consequences, of arbitrary conditions which we create, and which we feel obliged to maintain at
any cost." "Yes," she said. "The years that are gone seem like dreams -- if one might go on sleeping and
dreaming -- but to wake up and find -- oh! Well! Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer,
rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one's life." [Edna says that it is never too late and it is better
than continuing to live in illusion.]
"Some way I don't feel moved to speak of things that trouble me. Don't think I am ungrateful or that I
don't appreciate your sympathy. There are periods of despondency and suffering which take possession of
me. But I don't want anything but my own way. That is wanting a good deal, of course, when you have to
trample upon the lives, the hearts, the prejudices of others -- but no matter-still, I shouldn't want to
trample upon the little lives. Oh! I don't know what I'm saying, Doctor. Good night. Don't blame me for
anything." [Edna knows that she is defying society, morals, norms, but still she wants things her way.]
She went back to that hour before Adèle had sent for her; and her senses kindled afresh in thinking of
Robert's words, the pressure of his arms, and the feeling of his lips upon her own. She could picture at
that moment no greater bliss on earth than possession of the beloved one. His expression of love had
already given him to her in part. When she thought that he was there at hand, waiting for her, she grew
numb with the intoxication of expectancy. It was so late; he would be asleep perhaps. She would awaken
him with a kiss. She hoped he would be asleep that she might arouse him with her caresses.
Still, she remembered Adèle's voice whispering, "Think of the children; think of them." She meant to think
of them; that determination had driven into her soul like a death wound -- but not to-night. To-morrow
would be time to think of everything. Robert was not waiting for her in the little parlor. He was nowhere
at hand. The house was empty. But he had scrawled on a piece of paper that lay in the lamplight: "I love
you. Good-by -- because I love you" [Edna was anticipating that Robert will be there waiting for her, but
he left her a good-bye note. Freud enters here in terms of not having control of our lives. We think we are
rational and that reason controls our passion, but it is not how it works, because our drives control us.]
This chapter pictures Edna‟s suicide. She came to the resort early and saw that only Victor and
his girlfriend were there talking about her and comparing her to Venus the goddess of love,
which makes his girlfriend jealous. Victor gave a mythical dimension to that dinner held earlier
in Edna‟s house. Edna had come with a plan to kill herself; they told her that it was still too early
for a swim. As she swam, memories of her husband, children and childhood came to her mind.
Venus rising from the foam could have presented no more entrancing a spectacle than Mrs. Pontellier,
blazing with beauty and diamonds at the head of the board, while the other women were all of them
youthful houris, possessed of incomparable charms.
She had said over and over to herself: "To-day it is Arobin; to-morrow it will be some one else. It makes
no difference to me, it doesn't matter about Léonce Pontellier -- but Raoul and Etienne!" She understood
now clearly what she had meant long ago when she said to Adèle Ratignolle that she would give up the
unessential, but she would never sacrifice herself for her children. [She regrets at certain moments what
she did and does not at other moments.]
Despondency had come upon her there in the wakeful night, and had never lifted. There was no one thing
in the world that she desired. There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert; and
she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her
existence, leaving her alone. The children appeared before her like antagonists who had overcome her;
who had overpowered and sought to drag her into the soul's slavery for the rest of her days. But she knew
a way to elude them. She was not thinking of these things when she walked down to the beach. [Edna is
left with no hope concerning her relationship with Robert. The only thing she regrets now is her children.]
The water of the Gulf stretched out before her, gleaming with the million lights of the sun. The voice of
the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in
abysses of solitude. All along the white beach, up and down, there was no living thing in sight. A bird
with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the
Edna had found her old bathing suit still hanging, faded, upon its accustomed peg. She put it on, leaving
her clothing in the bath-house. But when she was there beside the sea, absolutely alone, she cast the
unpleasant, pricking garments from her, and for the first time in her life she stood naked in the open air,
at the mercy of the sun, the breeze that beat upon her, and the waves that invited her. [Edna gave herself
to the embrace of the sea. Water stands for baptism and this could mean that maybe she is dead but reborn
at the same time.] How strange and awful it seemed to stand naked under the sky! How delicious! She felt
like some new-born creature, opening its eyes in a familiar world that it had never known. The foamy
wavelets curled up to her white feet, and coiled like serpents about her ankles. She walked out. The water
was chill, but she walked on. The water was deep, but she lifted her white body and reached out with a
long, sweeping stroke. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.
[Whitman speaks of the sea in similar terms.]
She went on and on. She remembered the night she swam far out, and recalled the terror that seized her
at the fear of being unable to regain the shore. She did not look back now, but went on and on, thinking of
the blue-grass meadow that she had traversed when a little child, believing that it had no beginning and
no end. [Edna is recalling all her past memories to keep the fear away from her.]
Her arms and legs were growing tired. She thought of Léonce and the children. They were a part of her
life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul. How Mademoiselle Reisz
would have laughed, perhaps sneered, if she knew! "And you call yourself an artist! What pretensions,
Madame! The artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies."
Exhaustion was pressing upon and overpowering her. "Good-by -- because I love you." He did not know;
he did not understand. He would never understand. Perhaps Doctor Mandelet would have understood if
she had seen him -- but it was too late; the shore was far behind her, and her strength was gone.
She looked into the distance, and the old terror flamed up for an instant, and then sank again. Edna heard
her father's voice and her sister Margaret's. She heard the barking of an old dog that was chained to the
sycamore tree. The spurs of the cavalry officer clanged as he walked across the porch. There was the hum
of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air.
Note: There are two types of imagery that show the sea as seductive and inviting. Edna is
enjoying her uniting with the sea and the bird with the broken wing. She surrendered totally to
nature and her death in the water is a baptism and a rebirth, a beginning and not the end. She is
free and no longer possessed by anybody, not even by her children.
Approaches to reading The Awakening
The Traditional Approaches:
The Historical-Biographical Approach relates the events of the novella to the life of the writer or
to the historical context. We need to know about Kate Chopin‟s private life, her suffering and
whether The Awakening was an outlet for her pain. We try to find echoes of the author‟s life in
the novella. It can also be related to the historical context, the situation of women at the time it
was written and compare it to the ideas expressed in the book. Do these ideas correspond to
actual facts and to what extent does this story reflect the status of women in the late 19th century.
Did the women revolt to get their freedom and was this a good example of women in those
times? Most probably, yes. But in spite of this, the novel was ahead of its time and was not well
received at that time. Adultery was not viewed properly or appreciated at that time.
The Moral-Philosophical Approach deals with the themes & their moral implications. People can
relate to Edna in many different ways. Conservatives would condemn her as an adulteress and
would consider her death a punishment to her attitude. Progressive people would agree with her
and with her search for freedom while condemning her husband‟s inconsideration for her
moralistic and artistic needs. We can relate Edna‟s sensuality towards Alcée to naturalism
wherein it is believed that humans sometimes have no control over their instincts. For the
Romantics, the laws of life are more important than the laws of society and thus love is more
important and sacred than marriage. Edna worrying more about Robert than about her own
husband is a romantic attitude.
The Formalistic Approach:
The Chronological Approach:
It deals with the structure of the plot, the problems and the tensions that build up to a climax
when Edna moves out of the house and starts a relationship with Alcée. The plot is mainly
straightforward with some flashbacks into Edna‟s childhood. Then the plot moves towards the
resolution in Edna‟s suicide. Edna couldn‟t actualize her dreams nor live with her lover; suicide
was her only solution.
The Imagery and Symbolism Approach:
The Sea where she learned to swim shows how she becomes independent. It is also the place
where she dies by going back to the womb for her rebirth and baptism. Nature is another symbol
and is central mainly in her early childhood. She also finds refuge in nature. Music and painting
are motifs because they contributed to her awakening. Birds are used to indicate both strength
and independence for women or with broken wings as a sign of weakness and surrender. The
closeness of the two lovers to the woman in black symbolizes how love and catastrophe are
very near to each other. In dealing with these images, we need to trace how they contribute to the
structure of the novella. We could also deal with the point of view; the 3rd person narrator is
omniscient discussing to what extent is its objectivity and deducing the author‟s stand through
the narrator‟s way of discussing the events. The narrator knows everything, analyzes and
comments mainly on the character of Edna and on her feelings.
The Psychological (Freudian) Approach:
Memories of Edna‟s childhood, her relationship to her father who was despotic & oppressive, her
mother‟s early death, and her sister‟s inability to fill the mother‟s void are all indications. Her
early life had an impact on her later life. Maybe she was looking for her mother in Adèle because
she was helping her become more outspoken and less reserved. Although the two women were
different from each other, there was some intimacy between them. Adèle had different attitudes
towards adultery; she was a typical traditional wife, but she helped Edna greatly in her
awakening. The sea and nature symbolized her mother‟s womb and were a refuge for her. Freud
intervenes here, because according to him sexuality is a basic instinct in our life. In this respect,
our passion has control over our life more than reason. We have the death and life instincts in
Eros & Thanatos which both drove Edna to her suicide and were present in her relation with the
sea. Walt Whitman speaks of the sea in similar terms. Death is the consummation / end of love.
The Mythical Approach:
The most important scene shows her at the party she gave before moving to her new place and
she is being compared to Aphrodite and Venus, the goddesses of love. It was like Christ‟s last
supper. Robert told her about supernatural spirits that pick people ready for transcendence like
her and take them up to heaven.
The Feminist Approach:
It is the most appropriate of all approaches for this book. The clues to the feminist themes are
throughout. Edna is challenging the stereotyped submissive women of her day and the innocent
lives they led. She refused to continue to be an appendix to her husband and wanted
independence and freedom. One way towards her freedom was her practicing painting. There are
several references to the stereotyped women‟s movements such as in the conversation between
Dr. Mandelet and the husband. Edna tramples her wedding ring, example of her feminism.
The Comparative Literary Approach:
Kate Chopin, a female writer, was influenced by Gustave Flaubert‟s (a male writer) writing on
Madame Bovary. Would they depict the character in a similar way or in different ways?