The Awakening -Mademoiselle Reisz

"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.
"She arose, and bowing her stiff, lofty bow, she went away, stopping for
neither, thanks,nor applause.As along the gallery she patted Edna upon
the shoulder."
"She was a homely woman, with a small weazened face and body and
eyes that glowed. She had absolutely no taste in dress, and wore a batch
of rusty black lace with a bunch of artificial violets pinned to the side of her
"I've heard she's partially demented...I'm told shes extremely disagreeable
and unpleasant."
"Her playing had aroused a fever of enthusiasm."What passion!""What an
artist!" "I have always said no one could play Chopin like Mademoiselle
Mademoiselle Reisz is completely independent. She doesn't get along with
anybody besides Edna within the Creole society, although the members of
society do respect her as an artist. She says and does as she pleases.
Edna's reaction to the music
"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 on the shoulder as she said: "You
are the only one worth playing for."
Edna is deeply affected by the music, crying uncontrollably. She
has all of these pent up emotions that seem to be released as she
listens to her play. Even in this early stage of their relationship we
can see how Reisz understands Ednas emotions on a deeper level
than anybody else in her life. We can also see how Reisz has a
particular favor for Edna, being especially nice to her and only
playing for her.
Edna's Visit to Mademoiselle Reisz
Edna sees Mademoiselle Reisz when she is
Reisz plays as an escape for Edna, she feels more
at peace when with Mademoiselle Reisz.
- she lets Edna read Robert's letter
- she plays music for Edna
Reisz tells Edna that she does not make empty
promises as "Those women in society always do"
"It counts with a foolish old woman whom you have
Reisz is very taken with Edna, cares for her deeply
and understands that she is not like the typical
Creole woman or any woman really.
Mademoiselle Reisz on Artists
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"
Here, Mademoiselle does not express her doubt about
Edna's aspirations, however, she presents a challenge
that Edna takes to heart, even in her suicide.
Reisz on Artists cont.
"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."
Mademoiselle Reisz has made a huge impact on Edna
as we can see when she thinks of Reisz while she is
committing suicide. Her words have made a lasting
impression on Edna perhaps more than anyone else in
the end.
A reader could look at this quote in two possible waysEdna may believe that she is fulfilling this requirement
in her last act of rebellion or it may be that Edna feels
she is failing Reisz by giving up and killing herself.
End of Chapter XXI
"Edna did not know when the Impromtu began or ended. She
sat in the sofa corner reading Robert's letter by the fading
light. ..The music grew strange and fantastic - turbulent,
insistent, plaintive and soft with entreaty...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."
o Reisz's music is always intertwined with Edna's deepest
emotions and somehow draws feelings out of her she
had not even acknowledged herself yet
"Roberts 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."
o another example of Reisz being one of the few who truly
know Edna
The Bird Motif
Introduction to the bird motif:
o "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"
"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
"A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling,
fluttering, circling disable down, down to the water."
It seems as if in Edna's last moments as she sees the disabled bird
flying down to the water she has become the sad bird that Reisz
suggested, rather than the strong bird, able to "soar above," her
problems. Reisz could see what Edna was going through and
understood the reality of her situation, Edna needed to be the strong
bird that she suggested in order to survive.
Mademoiselle Reisz on Edna's death
Throughout the novel Mademoiselle Reisz is one of the only
characters to encourage Edna in her attempts to overcome
society’s rules for her. Edna's suicidal drowning might effect
Mademoiselle Reisz the most deeply because not only did she
understand Edna the best of the characters, but unlike Dr.
Mandalet, she also knew Edna personally and tried to help her.
We believe that Mademoiselle Reisz would not have been
entirely shocked by Edna's suicide. She was one of the only
people who saw Edna for who she truly was and understood
her emotions. However, Reisz would most likely have been
extremely saddened by the news of Edna's death, if not
surprised. It is evident that she cared for Edna deeply and most
likely would have wanted her to keep living and being strong
against the prejudices she faces.

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