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Adele Ratignolle in The Awakening: Quotes & Character Analysis

Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening introduced the world to many memorable characters, including Adele Ratignolle. Learn about Madame Ratignolle in this lesson and test yourself with a quiz.

Who Is Adele Ratignolle?

Adele Ratignolle is a good friend of Edna, the protagonist in the novel The Awakening. Adele is a Creole living in New Orleans with her husband and several children. A Creole is someone descended from the original colonists of New Orleans, and this denotes a very high, old money type prestige on a family. So Adele is a rich woman of high society, living in the 1890s. She holds fast to the values and gender norms placed upon women of the time - but more on this later.

You know those friends who are so different from you that you wonder how you became friends in the first place? Adele is immediately presented to the reader as a foil for the main character. Foils are characters who are complete opposites of one another. So if Edna Pontellier is having some type of awakening during the novel, what do you think that says about her foil, Adele Ratignolle? That's right. Adele is presented as the complete fantasy woman. She's angelic-looking, well-mannered, and, oh yeah, she's all about motherhood. Her entire being is consumed by wifehood and motherhood, which makes it all the more fascinating that she and Edna are friends.

Madame Ratignolle As A Mother

As stated above, Adele Ratignolle is known throughout The Awakening as an ideal mother to her children. During the 1890s when the novel takes place, especially in high society, the 'ideal mother' was a woman who basically forsook all notions of self and desire; in other words, the ideal mother occupying Adele's spot in society would've had almost no life outside of her children. In fact, the narrator tells us that so consumed is Adele by her role as a mother that she has another child roughly every two years. Yikes! No wonder she has no outside life. Adele constantly refers to 'her condition' - meaning motherhood and pregnancy - and treating this as her one source of pride.

Even when Adele endures a horrible, completely terrifying, extremely difficult birth toward the end of the novel, she maintains her 'children-are-everything' philosophy. She tells her friend Edna to 'Think of the children!' Man. After this harrowing experience, the woman still adores motherhood, and at this point, with this quote, the reader can see she takes being a mom to heart as her sworn duty as a woman. It's the noblest of positions, in her eyes. Her entire life is consumed by motherhood, so much so that even in extreme pain, all she can talk about is the children, and all she thinks of is the children.

Madame Ratignolle As A Wife

Madame Ratignolle doesn't get out much, but, interestingly, the reader does learn she has one hobby: music. She plays the piano, but only maintains her interest in music because it keeps her home happy and charming. 'She was keeping up her music on account of the children, she said, because she and her husband both considered it a means of brightening the home and making it attractive.' So her one outside interest isn't really an outside interest; she only continues with her musical hobby because it applies to her household.

Adele, again, is the epitome of the perfect woman and worships her husband. When she's engaged in the very painful birth of her newest child, she asks for her husband, seeming desperate to see him and needing him by her. 'Is it possible I am to be abandoned like this - neglected by every one?' She asks this, even though the doctor and Edna are with her.

Friendship With Edna

Adele Ratignolle, though very conservative in her values, is also characterized as a supportive friend to Edna, the protagonist of the novel, though she doesn't approve of Edna's extramarital affair or her lack of desire to be a mother. Adele's relationship with Edna shows itself to be a very important one, though the women, again, are complete opposites.

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