2 FLESH VS SPIRITEdna's rediscovery of feelings that she has long repressed underlie her search for freedom, self−expression, and love.
3 FLESH VS SPIRITHer relationship with Robert Lebrun awakens forgotten physical needs and prompts Edna to think about her life.For the first time, she begins to open up to others.
4 FLESH VS SPIRITShe shares confidences with Robert Lebrun and Adèle Ratignolle and allows herself to be stirred by Mlle. Reisz's music.
5 FLESH VS SPIRITShe learns to swim, further experiencing the power of the connection between mind and body.She finally acknowledges her feelings toward Robert and realizes that she can take action to control her own life.
6 FLESH VS SPIRITThe new Edna results from a marriage of flesh and spirit.
7 FREEDOMEdna wants a life beyond that defined as wife and mother.In New Orleans she refuses to sleep with husband.Withdraws from social obligations that are important to her husband.
8 FREEDOMMoves to “pigeon house.”Earns her own living by painting.Socializes with whom she chooses.
9 FREEDOMVentures out on her own and discovers people and places she would have previously ignored.For Edna, choice defines freedom.
10 FREEDOMAll are trapped by social expectations.Only characters who are not are criticized by others.
11 FREEDOMEdna subject to gossip and criticism as she gains personal freedom.
12 SEXISMEdna realizes that double standards exist for men and women.No one thinks anything of Robert’s attention for Edna, but they would be appalled at knowing her feelings for him.
13 SEXISMAdele tries to tell Edna to be careful of her reputation.Men engaged in extramarital affairs, pursued business and personal interests and had freedom to do as they pleased.
14 SEXISMLéonce shows no concern over Robert's relationship with his wife, yet is so perturbed by Edna's actions that he believes she is having a nervous breakdown and consults the family doctor.
15 SEXISMThe roles that Edna, Robert, and Léonce play in the story point out the unfairness of sexism and the repression of individual freedom that it causes.
16 Society allows for essentially one feminine role—wife and mother. SEXISMSociety allows for essentially one feminine role—wife and mother.Madame RatignolleMademoiselle ReiszEdnaMadame Ratignolle fills the role perfectly. She is described as “the embodiment of every womanly grace and charm.” She is pregnant throughout the novel—and the birth of her child is a precipitating event in Edna’s suicide—and she and her husband seem genuinely to adore one another.Mademoiselle Reisz represents the woman who has foresworn that role, for whatever reason. She is described as “a disagreeable little woman, no longer young…[with[…a temper which was self-assertive and a disposition to trample upon the rights of others.” She lives in something approaching poverty.Edna, of course, finds it difficult to fill the role. In her attempt to extricate herself from the confines of social expectation, she ends her life.
17 SEARCH FOR SELFEdna's spiritual and physical awakenings herald her search for self.While Léonce can see her actions only as some sort of temporary insanity, Edna knows that she is discovering the person within who wants to be free of society's boundaries.
18 SEARCH FOR SELFIn attempting to determine that person, she first tries out her assertive self by refusing to have sexual relations with her husband.She next taps her creative self by reviving her interest in painting.
19 SEARCH FOR SELFShe tries to define her relative self by considering her feelings about motherhood and her relationships with people.Finally, she experiences her sensual self by allowing herself to feel and act upon her own desires.
20 SEARCH FOR SELFEdna succeeds in determining who she is but discovers that the price for having her own identity is more than she can afford.
21 SEARCH FOR SELFCombination of repressed feelings and the search for personal freedom.Through Edna’s struggle for self-actualization, we question whether any characters have strong sense of self.
22 CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES: FREE WILL From the time that she first meets Robert, Edna realizes that all choices have their consequences.
23 CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES: FREE WILL Her choice to remain in a relationship with Léonce would result in her continuing dissatisfaction with life.Yet she really doesn't understand, initially, that she can make choices that will result in different consequences.
24 CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES: FREE WILL When she does see that she can make changes, she experiences a freedom that she has never before felt.
25 CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES: FREE WILL This exhilaration, however, is short−lived. Edna finds that free will carries with it responsibilities that are almost as confining as her marriage was.
26 CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES: FREE WILL Her loveless affair with Alcée, and Robert's inability to reciprocate her love, lead Edna to see the final, dismal consequence of her life.
27 CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES: FREE WILL No matter what choices she makes, Edna can never be totally free within the confines of the society in which she lives.
28 SEXThe choices Edna makes in her life result, largely, from her rediscovery of sexual pleasure.Robert's attention prompts Edna to ponder her life.
29 SEXAs an initial result, Edna withholds sex from her husband.Then, her unfulfilled love for Robert and her loveless affair with Alcée demonstrate to her that love and sex are entirely separate entities.
30 SEXEdna discovers that while sex draws men and women together and can be physically satisfying, it does not necessarily meet one's emotional needs.
31 SEXFree sex has its price, and ultimately, Edna is not willing to pay it.
32 ALIENATION & LONELINESS Although people surround Edna on the Grand Isle, she feels separated by her thoughts.
33 ALIENATION & LONELINESS She believes that if she makes changes in her life to reflect her true self, she will be able to do what she chooses and associate with people who think like she does.
34 ALIENATION & LONELINESS Unfortunately, while her new companions do live their lives in their own ways, they also live isolated by society's rules.
35 ALIENATION & LONELINESS Mlle. Reisz is a prime example. She is a talented musician who has chosen the unconventional road. Because Mlle. Reisz is unmarried and living alone, people think she is odd.
36 ALIENATION & LONELINESS Few people appreciate her music and fewer still associate with her. Mlle. Reisz finds comfort and passion only in her music.
37 ALIENATION & LONELINESS Edna eventually feels the same kind of loneliness.Tantalized by what could be, she refuses to give up her dream of freedom and to sacrifice her newfound individuality.
38 ALIENATION & LONELINESS As a result, she alienates herself from all of society in her choice to create her own destiny.
39 PUBLIC VS PRIVATE LIVES Edna recognizes that she is unhappy with the life she is leading and all that it represents.She must answer to a husband who wants her to be nothing more than a household manager and nursemaid.
40 PUBLIC VS PRIVATE LIVES She must perform the social duties expected from the devoted wife of a highly−respected man.She must appear to be the loving mother of children who demand her full and constant attention.
41 PUBLIC VS PRIVATE LIVES To maintain this public image, Edna must deny herself the intimate pleasures of mutual love, the liberating acts of self−expression and creativity, and the joy of having friends with whom she can share her most private thoughts.
42 PUBLIC VS PRIVATE LIVES Edna finally tires of the masquerade.She realizes that she can no longer ignore her own desires, thoughts, and aspirations.
43 PUBLIC VS PRIVATE LIVES She knows that her new attitude will be difficult to reconcile with a public life, but she pursues it with determination.No longer stifled by public expectations, Edna acts on her thoughts.
44 PUBLIC VS PRIVATE LIVES Unfortunately, her liberation does not last.She finds that there can be no true union of her public and private selves.
45 PUBLIC VS PRIVATE LIVES The world in which she lives is bound too much by social convention to accept long−term nonconformity.
46 PUBLIC VS PRIVATE LIVES The public is not ready to embrace the private Edna, and Edna is unwilling to yield to public sentiment.
47 REPRESSED FEELINGSAlmost all characters repress their feelings.Repression has a significant impact on how the characters interact and how the plot develops.
48 REPRESSED FEELINGSLeonce loves Edna but he never expresses these feelings.Robert flees to Mexico rather than express his love for Edna.
49 REPRESSED FEELINGSReturning to New Orleans, Robert delays seeing her for the same reason.
50 REPRESSED FEELINGSMademoiselle Reisz possesses an insight into matters of the heart and soul, yet she never expresses what in her past has allowed her to develop this insight.
51 REPRESSED FEELINGSEdna’s inability to continue to repress her newly-discovered feelings drives her to her suicide.