The Awakening, Kate Chopin
The following is an excerpt from a novel that is set on the southern Louisiana coast in the early 20th century. The story follows Edna Pontellier, a housewife and mother.
1. Mrs. Pontellier was not a woman given to confidences, a characteristic hitherto
2. contrary to her nature. Even as a child she had lived her own small life all
3. within herself. At a very early period she had apprehended instinctively the
4. dual life—that outward existence which conforms, the inward life which
6. That summer at Grand Isle she began to loosen a little the mantle of reserve that
7. had always enveloped her. There may have been—there must have been—
8. influences,both subtle and apparent, working in their several ways to induce
9. her to do this; but the most obvious was the influence of Adele Ratignolle. The
10. excessive physical charm of the Creole had first attracted her, for Edna had a
11. sensuous susceptibility to beauty. Then the candor of the woman's whole
12. existence, which every one might read, and which formed so striking a contrast
13. to her own habitual reserve—this might have furnished a link. Who can tell
14. what metals the gods use in forging the subtle bond which we call sympathy,
15. which we might as well call love.
16. The two women went away one morning to the beach together, arm in
17. arm, under the huge white sunshade. Edna had prevailed upon Madame
18. Ratignolle to leave the children behind, though she could not induce her to
19. relinquish a diminutive roll of needlework, which Adele begged to be
20. allowed to slip into the depths of her pocket. In some unaccountable way
21. they had escaped from Robert.
22. The walk to the beach was no inconsiderable one, consisting as it did
23. of a long, sandy path, upon which a sporadic and tangled growth that
24. bordered it on either side made frequent and unexpected inroads. There were
25. acres of yellow camomile reaching out on either hand. Further away still,
26. vegetable gardens abounded, with frequent small plantations of orange or
27. lemon trees intervening. The dark green clusters glistened from afar in the sun.
28. The women were both of goodly height, Madame Ratignolle possessing the
29. more feminine and matronly figure. The charm of Edna Pontellier's physique
30. stole insensibly upon you. The lines of her body were long, clean and
31. symmetrical; it was a body which occasionally fell into splendid poses;
32. there was no suggestion of the trim, stereotyped fashion-plate about it. A
33. casual and indiscriminating observer, in passing, might not cast a second glance
34. upon the figure. But with more feeling and discernment he would have
35. recognized the noble beauty of its modeling, and the graceful severity of
36. poise and movement, which made Edna Pontellier different from the crowd.
37. She wore a cool muslin that morning—white, with a waving vertical line of
38. brown running through it; also a white linen collar and the big straw hat which
39. she had taken from the peg outside the door. The hat rested any way on her
40. yellow-brown hair, that waved a little, was heavy, and clung close to her head.
41. Madame Ratignolle, more careful of her complexion, had twined a gauze veil
42. about her head. She wore dogskin gloves, with gauntlets that protected her
43. wrists. She was dressed in pure white, with a fluffiness of ruffles that became
44. her. The draperies and fluttering things which she wore suited her rich,
45. luxuriant beauty as a greater severity of line could not have done.
46. There were a number of bath-houses along the beach, of rough but solid
47. construction, built with small, protecting galleries facing the water. Each
48. house consisted of two compartments, and each family at Lebrun's possessed
49. a compartment for itself, fitted out with all the essential paraphernalia of the
50. bath and whatever other conveniences the owners might desire. The two
51. women had no intention of bathing; they had just strolled down to the beach
52. for a walk and to be alone and near the water. The Pontellier and Ratignolle
53. compartments adjoined one another under the same roof.
54. Mrs. Pontellier had brought down her key through force of habit. Unlocking
55. the door of her bath-room she went inside, and soon emerged, bringing a
56. rug, which she spread upon the floor of the gallery, and two huge hair pillows
57. covered with crash, which she placed against the front of the building.
58. The two seated themselves there in the shade of the porch, side by side, with
59. their backs against the pillows and their feet extended. Madame Ratignolle
60. removed her veil, wiped her face with a rather delicate handkerchief, and fanned
61. herself with the fan which she always carried suspended somewhere about her
62. person by a long, narrow ribbon. Edna removed her collar and opened her
63. dress at the throat. She took the fan from Madame Ratignolle and began to
64. fan both herself and her companion. It was very warm, and for a while they
65. did nothing but exchange remarks about the heat, the sun, the glare. But there
66. was a breeze blowing, a choppy, stiff wind that whipped the water into froth.
67. It fluttered the skirts of the two women and kept them for a while engaged in
68. adjusting, readjusting, tucking in, securing hair-pins and hat-pins. A few
69. persons were sporting some distance away in the water. The beach was very
70. still of human sound at that hour. The lady in black was reading her morning
71. devotions on the porch of a neighboring bathhouse. Two young lovers were
72. exchanging their hearts' yearnings beneath the children's tent, which they
73. had found unoccupied.
74. Edna Pontellier, casting her eyes about, had finally kept them at rest upon the
75. sea. The day was clear and carried the gaze out as far as the blue sky went;
76. there were a few white clouds suspended idly over the horizon. A lateen
77. sail was visible in the direction of Cat Island, and others to the south seemed
78. almost motionless in the far distance.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Chicago: New York: Herbert S. Stone, 1899. Print.
What is the purpose of paragraph 4 (lines 22-27)?