Edna, the main character of the story, is a young woman of twenty-eight.
She is married to a New Orleans businessman, who is twelve years
her senior. She is bored with her life of domesticity, and through
her exposure to the liberated society of Creole women, she realizes
the constraints of her own lifestye. She starts to realize that
she has an identity outside of that as wife and mother. She takes
a series of important steps and on each occasion she breaks the
rules of her society an experiences an awakening. She is encouraged
by Mlle. Reisz and through her meets Robert with whom she has an
He is a wealthy New Orleans businessman and his work makes great
demands on his time. He loves his wife, Edna, but he fails to understand
her. As a consequence of his work, his home-life suffers and due
to his long absences, Edna is tempted to explore an alternative
way of life. He often compared Edna to Ad'le, which causes resentment
with his wife. She is hurt by he fact that he is more concerned
with social appearances rather than her welfare.
Robert is single and two years younger than Edna, with whom he falls
in love. Whilst Edna is prepared to sacrifice all in order to pursue
her love for Robert, he is more tightly bound to the conventions
of the New Orleans society. In his eyes, Edna can never be free
from being one of L'once's possessions, and so he can never see
his love for Edna consummated.
Mademoiselle Reisz and Edna develop a connection.even though she
is not very sociable. She has a habit of saying exactly what she
thinks and doesn't care what other think of her. She is the only
one of Edna's friends who is aware of Edna's feelings towards Robert.
Adele becomes Edna's friend at Grand Isle. She exemplifies the perfect
mother and wife and centers her life around her home. As a distraction,
her main pastime is music, and she holds regular musical soirees.
She is a Creole and her unique free expression starts Edna's awakening.
Although Ad'le's flirtatious behavior initially shocks Edna, this
type of behavior is typical of Creole women and is only cosmetic,
part of a game. Creole men folk have a high level of trust and respect
for their wives, and are aware of this type of behavior
A New Orleans man-about-town, Alc'e Arobin is a renowned womanizer.
He is good-looking, clever, and persistent. He becomes interested
in Edna and tries to court her. He devotes himself to the game of
Robert's younger brother, and the favored son of Madame Lebrun,
Victor is a wild young man who knows he is good-looking and desirable.
He is an audacious flirt and a bit immature.
Madame Lebrun, is the widowed mother of Robert and Victor. She runs
the resort on Grand Isle for summer vacationers. is the ultimate
mistress of her household, hardworking and usually exasperated.
Dr. Mandelet is semi-retired, but he still attends the old families--the
Pontelliers and Ratignolles, for examples. He eventually recognize
Edna's "awakening," but is never close enough to her to help.
Edna's father was a Colonel in the Confederate Army during the American
Civil War. He staunchly believes that husbands should have complete
control over their wives and household. Whether the Colonel has
mellowed or not, their last period together becomes their most successful
as father and daughter.
LADY IN BLACK
She is a lonely widow on holiday at Grand Isle. She enjoys a type
of independence, but she is still under the strict constraints of
Victorian society. As a widow, she is expected to withdraw from
the pleasures of life and maintain a life of celibacy. Although
she remains silent in the book, she is a constant symbol of the
This pair is also on vacation on Grand Isle, and they are paired
symbolically with the Lady in Black. So far as the female lover
is concerned, she represents the maximum freedom that a respectable
woman can expect to have prior to marriage.