Melanie
Melanie asked:

What do you think the two lovers and the lady in black represent in the story?

To answer questions about The Awakening, please sign up.
Susan Coffey to paraphrase sparknotes, the "lady in black" represents widowhood, Edna is longing for independence and freedom, in Victorian times becoming a widow was the only socially acceptable way of gaining independence via freedom from marriage. "The lovers" represent Edna and Robert and the life they may have had if circumstances were different, the lady in black is juxtaposed with "the lovers" to implicate an inevitable failure of the relationship.
Hope For myself, I saw the lady in black and the two lovers as symbols for the tarot cards Death and the Lovers, respectively. Tarot was and is a part of the culture of New Orleans and something both Edna (the protagonist) and Chopin (the author) would have been exposed to in some form. I saw it as the lady in black signifying an end to a relationship (Edna's and Leonce's) and the lovers presenting an important choice about a relationship (Edna's and Robert's). This is, of course, merely my perception, but several points lead me to this fact. Firstly, they are never named, and almost never directly addressed. They have little, if any, personality, thoughts, or desires outside their roles in a story full of captivating characters. Secondly, they all appear before, during, or after key events frequently. Lastly, the story is set in and around New Orleans, a place renowned for its population of the occult.
Matthew Osborn Hope is correct in her reply here.


The entire novel is built with wiccan symbology (nowadays we use the word "semiotics"). The colors, gems, broken crystal, the Dionysian gathering (coven), the bird omens, and on and on - it's thick with symbols of the Dionysian Mysteries.

The archetype is Ariadne.

Notice this tarot reading of the two lovers:
"There was not a particle of earth beneath their feet. Their heads might have been turned upside-down..." (chapter VIII)

In reading the Tarot, when a card is upside down, it has a special meaning.

On further reading (it's been 40 years since I studied this book) - notice also the "bare white arm... received the cup" -- The Ace of Cups

This passage is a Tarot reading, indicating much about the story.

""She thrust a bare, white arm from the curtain which shielded her open door, and received the cup from his hands. She told him he was a bon garçon, and she meant it. Robert thanked her and turned away toward “the house.”
The lovers were just entering the grounds of the pension. They were leaning toward each other as the water-oaks bent from the sea. There was not a particle of earth beneath their feet. Their heads might have been turned upside-down, so absolutely did they tread upon blue ether. The lady in black, creeping behind them, looked a trifle paler and more jaded than usual."

(Chapter VIII)"

The Ace of Cups, which I just noticed, also supports another assertion of mine - I believe Edna is pregnant.

Image for The Awakening
Rate this book
Clear rating

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more