Chapter 22 of “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin switches gears and presents Mr. Pontellier seeking out a doctor friend named Doctor Mandelet, a man sought more for his wisdom in retirement and a friend of the family. Leonce cannot explain exactly what ails Edna but begins by simply saying that she is letting her housekeeping “go to the dickens” and that she seems odd and has “some sort of notion in her head concerning the eternal rights of women.” The doctor inquires about her recent associations and even her genetic stock and finally encourages Leonce to send Edna to her sister’s wedding back home in Kentucky, but Mr. Pontellier reveals that Edna doesn’t want to go because a “wedding is one of the most lamentable spectacles on earth.” Leonce wants to the doctor to come by before he is gone to New York on business and the doctor agrees that he will make it. Doctor Mandelet does not openly question if there’s another man in the picture and wonders about what it really going on.
The next chapter breaks from this and introduces Edna’s father onto the scene as he is in town to purchase a wedding gift for his daughter. Edna and her father are not close particularly, “but they had certain tastes in common and when together they were companionable.” He is a striking man and was held a high office in the Confederate army and Edna is compelled to take him to the atelier to pain him, which he agrees to and takes very seriously. The two go to musical performances at the entertaining Madame Ratignolle’s house and have a decent time. The doctor comes to dine with the Pontellier family, including Edna’s father and sees nothing wrong with Edna, finding her to be more than healthy but he worries about a visitor that evening, a playboy named Alcee Arobin. He hopes that Edna’s behavior has nothing to do with an illicit relationship. Before her father leaves, he reprimands her about not attending Janet, her sister’s, wedding but he leaves nonetheless and Edna is glad for the break. As her father leaves, Leonce talks to him for a moment and Edna’s father, the old Colonel tells him he is too lenient with Edna and that she need discipline and coercion. Leonce thinks to himself that “the Colonel was perhaps unaware that he had coerced his own wife into her grave.” Edna’s husband leaves that same day and the children too are gone, having gone with Edna’s mother to Kentucky for the wedding. Edna is alone and finds it to be a wonderful and delicious experience. She enjoys dining alone and experiences her home as if she had never really lived in it.
With the freedom to feel her moods and work on her painting without interruption, Edna falls victim to her moods, which change rapidly and are related to the weather. On sunny days she works but on rainy days she seeks out friends and often goes to the horse races with a haughty woman named Mrs. Highcamp and a charming young man named Alcee Arobin—the same man the doctor worried about her having a possible relationship with. He is a good looking and well-dressed man with a reputation as a womanizer and he finds Edna quite desirable. The races shoot Edna back to her childhood and she is quite an admirable expert on racing and has good luck betting. She comes alive at the track and many begin to notice her, a fact which compels Arobin to desire to be around her even more. One evening Alcee Arobin walks Edna home and after he leaves, she feels excited and wishes he stayed. She is so caught up in the excitement that she forgets about writing a letter to her husband. A few afternoons later she goes out, unaccompanied with Arobin and the two enjoy one another and establish a good friendship and in the evening, they engage in rather frank flirtation with Edna finally telling him to go, which leaves her wondering how genuine he was. The narrator, however, answers this question by sauing that “Alcee Arobin’s manner was so genuine that it often deceived even himself.” Before going to sleep she thinks of when he kissed her hand and “felt somewhat like a woman who in a moment of passion is betrayed into an act of infidelity, and realizes the significance of the act without being wholly awakened from its glamor.” Instead of wondering her husband’s reaction, she wonders about Robert since “her husband seemed to her now “like a person whom she had married without love as an excuse.”
As the narrator states, Alcee Arobin is “prolific in pretexts” and always finds a reason to come over and see Edna, even though she is trying to resist his charms. The two are becoming very familiar, despite the uneven way she treats him. One afternoon Edna decides to see Mademoiselle Reisz, who often helps her right her moods and put things in perspective. On the chilly afternoon she goes over in this chapter she all of a sudden blurts out that she is going to move out of her house on Esplanade Street and into a small four-room house that she can easily rent with money she won at the tracks and some of the proceeds from the sale of her paintings as well as the “driblets” of money that come to her from her mother’s estate. She plans on giving a big dinner and telling her husband but has not worked out the details yet. Mademoiselle Reisz hands Edna a new letter from Robert and in conversation asks Edna if she loves Robert and she says “yes” and is a bit embarrassed and realizes that this is the first time she’s admitted it to anyone, even though she can’t tell the women what it is about him that she loves in particular. Edna suddenly drops the letter in surprise as it states that Robert is coming back to town soon, although a date is not set. Edna feels on air for the rest of the day and is in such good spirits that she sends a large box of candy with a tender card to her children and in the evening she writes a very “cheerful” letter to her husband, casually letting him know she will be moving out of the house and that she regrets he will not be there to help plan her moving-out party.
Chapter 27 takes place the same evening. Arobin is with Edna and is quite forward, playing with the hair on her forehead and talking sweetly to her. They talk for a few moments about Mademoiselle Reisz and Edna recalls that she said something interesting to her that afternoon. Reisz felt her shoulder blades to “see if her wings were strong” and 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 and exhausted, fluttering back to earth.” Although this is on Edna’s mind, Alcee has other things on his. They find themselves looking into one another’s eyes and he suddenly kisses her lips. For Edna, “it was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded. It was a flaming torch that kindled desire.” The following chapter is just a paragraph long. After this kiss Edna cries after he leaves and many emotions wash over her, including a feeling of irresponsibility and mere shock. She also thinks about how Robert would think of her but when she considers her feelings, she realizes that none of them are remorse or shame. There was, however, “a dull pang of regret because it was not a kiss of love which had inflamed her, because it was not love which had held this cup of life to her lips” but rather, as the reader is left to assume, it is lust.