Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
The Pontelliers do not have a happy marriage. Like most characters in the novel, Léonce is a Creole descendant of New Orleans’s original French and Spanish settlers, and he is quite content with his life. His wife, Edna, however, was raised in a Presbyterian home in Kentucky, and is restless under the restrictions of Louisiana’s patriarchal Roman Catholic society. At Grand Isle, she displays the first signs of independence and begins to become her own person–to “awaken.” She befriends Mademoiselle Reisz, whose creativity she admires, and carries on a summer flirtation with Robert Lebrun, a son of the property owner. She also spends time at the beach with Robert and her children, learns to swim, and even swims out far from the shore alone. Her resistance to Léonce has begun; she is, Kate Chopin writes, “like one who awakens gradually out of a dream.” Grand Isle thus represents her first feelings of freedom.
At the end of the novel, Edna returns to Grand Isle in the off season and, feeling no further possibilities in her life, removes all her clothes, swims far out into the sea, and drowns.
*Chenière Caminada. Island between Grand Isle and the Louisiana coast to which Edna, Robert, and others go by boat to attend mass on Sunday. After falling asleep during the service, Edna awakens and asks how many years she has slept. Chenière Caminada is one of many islands in this area that represent choices in life. Edna talks of going with Robert to look for pirate gold at Grand Terre, for example, an island adjacent to Grand Isle.
*New Orleans. Colorful and culturally diverse Gulf port city, at the mouth of the great Mississippi River, where the Pontelliers own a charming home on Esplanade Street in the city’s most fashionable neighborhood. Pontellier is proud of his house, for he values all his possessions highly–including his wife, Edna. However, their life on Esplanade Street feels increasingly restrictive to Edna after the family’s summer on Grand Isle. Regarding her home as a prison, she starts to break free, first by failing to be “at home” when other women call, and then by beginning an affair with the experienced playboy Alcée Arobin. New Orleans is thus the hub of the repressive Creole society Edna seeks to flee.
Pigeon House. Smaller house into which Edna moves after failing to find freedom in her own home, even when her husband and children are away. Edna is happy in her new surroundings: “Every step which she took toward relieving herself from obligations added to her strength and expansion as an individual.” The house thus represents her physical removal from conventional and repressive Creole society.
Garden restaurant. Suburban restaurant in which Edna runs into Robert, and their affair seems about to begin. However, Robert is a product of the same Catholic and patriarchal Creole society that produced Léonce and would not think of taking another man’s property–unless to make her his own property. Edna feels trapped by every relationship; only when she is away from the city–as when she is on Grand Isle or in this garden restaurant–does she begin to feel her true nature.
Edna’s childhood home. House in Kentucky bluegrass country in which Edna grew up and about which she often thinks. Her last thoughts in her life return there, to the site of her early romances and happiness. It is not her childhood family that matters to her, for she later argues with her father and refuses to go to her sister’s wedding. Rather, the Kentucky home and her Presbyterian upbringing signify Edna’s differences from both her husband and most of the other Creoles in New Orleans. “She is not one of us; she is not like us,” the Creole woman Madame Lebrun warns her son–meaning, she is not from New Orleans Creole society.