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The Character of Mademoiselle Reisz in The Awakening Essay

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The Character of Mademoiselle Reisz in The Awakening

"She was a disagreeable little woman, no longer young, who had quarreled with almost everyone, owing to a temper which was self-assertive and a disposition to trample upon the rights of others." (25) This is how Kate Chopin introduces the character of Mademoiselle Reisz into her novel, The Awakening. A character who, because of the similarities she shares with Madame Pontellier, could represent the path Madame Pontellier’s life may have taken, had she survived old age.

Mademoiselle Reisz is first introduced at a party when she plays the piano for Edna Pontellier. Edna is described as being "very fond of music."(25) Music is described as having a way of "evoking
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Another similarity between the two women is in regard to their taste in men. At one point in the novel, Mademoiselle Reisz mentions that "If I were young and in love with a man it seems to me he would have to be some grand esprit; it seems to me if I were young and in love I should never deem a man of ordinary caliber worthy of my devotion." (81) This definition of Mademoiselle’s ideal love almost perfectly matches that of Edna’s. For Edna was searching for the same qualities within Robert; a change, something that goes astray from the ordinary. Mr. Pontellier, her husband, was simply that, ordinary, which she did not want.

A third parallel seen through the relationship between Mademoiselle Reisz and Madame Pontellier is their aversion to the water. Although Edna sees the sea as "whispering, clamoring, murmuring (and ) inviting," (13) toward the beginning of the novel, she is hesitant to completely submerge herself in it. This can be logically explained in that she cannot swim. However, she continues to walk along the shore and place her feet in the tide, but other than that, before she learns to swim, that is the extent of her bathing experience. Mademoiselle Reisz is also described to have some sort of physical aversion to the sea as well. This can be seen when she blatantly refuses to follow Edna to the water claiming that she hasn’t "been in the surf all summer," and that to bathe in it at the end of the season would be pointless. (48)

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