The Awakening Study Guide
1. Explain how the parrot and the mockingbird are used to introduce this chapter. They provide disruptive sound images. The parrot is saying, “Go away! Go away! For Heaven’s sake!” The mockingbird whistles with “maddening persistence.” 2. Describe Léonce Pontellier.
He appears to be a successful New Orleans businessman. He is neat and orderly in appearance and has an impatient manner. He and his wife, Edna, and their two children are vacationing at Grand Isle for the summer. 3. What does the following quotation tell you about Léonce’s attitude toward his wife? He looked “at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage.” He considers her as property, not as a person; he also considers the appearance of his possessions as very important.
4. Who is Robert Lebrun?
He is the son of Madame Lebrun, the woman who owns the main house and the cottages that make up the summer resort at Grand Isle. 5. Discuss the use of the following sounds in Chapter I: the other birds, the piano, Madame Lebrun, the children, Edna, and Robert. • The birds are “chattering and whistling.”
• The young girls are playing the piano.
• Madame Lebrun’s “bustling in and out, giving orders in a high key.” • The Pontellier children are playing.
• Edna and Robert return from the beach, laughing and talking. 6. How do these sounds indicate something about the setting of the novel? They suggest a warm, pleasant, carefree, summer day.
7. What indications are there that the Pontellier marriage is strained? Léonce takes Edna for granted, seeing her as a part of his neat, orderly world. He seems unconcerned about the shared familiarity between Edna and Robert. Léonce and his wife speak only in passing; he leaves for Klein’s and perhaps a game of billiards rather than spend time with her. CHAPTER 2
1. Describe Edna Pontellier.
She is attractive, handsome rather than beautiful. Her eyes are “quick and bright; they were a yellowish-brown, about the color of her hair. 2. What kind of person is Robert Lebrun?
He is a clerk in a mercantile house who has hopes of finding his fortune in Mexico. This has not happened yet, but he has plans to meet someone in Mexico who may help him in this goal. 3. What shift in point of view is evident in Chapter Two?
The shift is from Mr. Pontellier’s to the author’s third-person point-of-view. Chopin comments here on the conversation between Edna and Robert. 4. What do you learn about Robert and Edna from their conversation at the end of this chapter? Left alone when Léonce does not return early, Edna and Robert talk in a leisurely, unhurried manner. He is concerned about his future; she talks about her childhood homes, her sisters, and her dead mother.
1. How does Léonce’s behavior when he returns from the Klein Hotel reveal his attitude toward his wife? He returns at 11:00 in a good mood. He is inconsiderate and disturbs Edna by talking to her, even though she has been sleeping. He seems wrapped up in his own concerns and ignorant of his wife’s needs. He refers to her as “the sole object of his existence,” but she is treated only as an object, not a person. He scolds her for not taking care of the children, which he feels is her job, even though he has forgotten to bring them the promised treats. 2. What shows the reader more signs of the marital conflict between the Pontelliers? Edna is upset by her husband’s criticism. After checking on the children, she goes outside and cries for some time while her husband sleeps. She cannot explain to herself exactly why she is crying.
3. Discuss how sounds are used as a backdrop to the scene of disagreement between Léonce and Edna. How is the sea used as a symbol? There is the hooting of an owl and the “everlasting voice of the sea” that seems like “a mournful lullaby upon the night.” The sea is a symbol for Edna’s awakening from her present life to a...
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