By Chopin Kate
By Chopin Kate
Kate Chopin was born to February 8, 1850 in Missouri to an Irish immigrant father and a mother who was known in the St. Louis French community. Though she was one of five children, a series of deaths led to her being the only one to live past the age of 25. At the young age of 20, Kate married Oscar Chopin and moved to New Orleans where they lived until her husband’s brokerage went under and they moved to Cloutierville in north-central Louisiana.
It was three years later that Oscar died, and Chopin was left with six children and a crushing debt of $12,000. She was forced to sell the small interests she had control over in Louisiana and then moved back to St. Louis with her father. Her mother died soon after and Chopin was left depressed. Her doctor suggested writing as a way to deal with her emotions, and thus her career in the field began.
Chopin was mainly a short story writer and gained popularity by being published in both local and national papers. It was during this time that she wrote The Awakening, which was criticized for both its moral implications and literary style. Discouraged, she continued with short stories.
She died in 1904 at the age of 53 of a brain hemorrhage.
Published in 1899, The Awakening is a book that takes place in that era, as it’s noted that Edna’s father was part of the Confederate army 30 years before the events of the book. Deep in the Victorian era, the role of women continued to be one of matronly duty despite the fact that they were legally marginalized. It’s for these reasons that the theme of a woman treating her family like a burden and attempting to free herself from them was considered so controversial.
Stylistically, Chopin’s terse prose was more akin to writing that would become popular in the early twentieth century as opposed to the rich, verbose writing of her era. It was because of this that the greater literary community did not pay her works any attention. Thematically, Chopin’s unromantic depiction of womanhood went against the moral grain of society during the Victorian era, and it wasn’t until later that her work was recognized as proto feminist. Her work in general also set the stage for writers of the South to be noted as such, with William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor heirs to Chopin’s literary legacy.
The story begins on a resort on Grand Isle and opens on the life of Edna Pontellier who is vacationing there with her husband- Leonce- and two children. Though considered a kind husband by both Edna and the Creole community, Leonce expects his wife and family to abide by his every rule- causing strain on his relationship with Edna. As he continues to go to work most all of the week and the children are quite independent, Edna spends much of her time with Adele- the epitome of Creole womanhood- and Robert- the son of the resort’s owner.
Edna’s time with both results in a process of awakening and self-realization that continues to grow throughout the book. Much of this is spurred on by Edna’s perception of Robert, as he reminds her of the infatuations she had when she was young; the same ones she gave up when she married Leonce. Though Robert is known throughout the community as someone who dotes upon one woman each summer, his admiration for Edna seems genuine. Her attachment to him grows, and she finds herself taken aback as he leaves for Mexico towards the end of the summer without notice.
Back in New Orleans, Edna continues her individualization. She stops her weekly activity of accepting visitors and takes up painting. She also finds herself taking her husband’s judgments of her less seriously. This causes Leonce to consult Doctor Mandelet, who tells him to let her be. This advice is taken, and as he goes on a business trip to New York, Leonce’s mother takes the children to her country home. The freedom allows Edna to pursue a relationship with known lothario Alcee Arobin, who is able to please her physically but not emotionally.
Edna eventually moves out and begins spending time with Mademoiselle Reisz- a talented piano player whose independence and solitary lifestyle makes her a sort of role model for Edna. She discovers that Robert has been sending Reisz letters that constantly ask about Edna, and the young woman is convinced that Robert feels the same way about her as she has grown to feel about him.
Robert eventually returns without telling Edna, and it is only through chance encounters that they meet. Their first meeting is awkward, and Robert takes no effort to contact Edna again. On their second, Edna confronts him on his avoidance and they end up confessing each other’s love. Robert had been avoiding her as he felt that their love would be unfulfilled due to the fact that she is married. Edna tells him not to worry about such things and to think only of the future when Adele calls for Edna to be there for her pregnancy.
After the birth, Adele tells Edna only to think of the children- a comment that strikes Edna deeply. Returning home, she finds that Robert has left, leaving only a note that says he is leaving because he loves her. Depressed and heartbroken, Edna spends the entire night awake on the couch where they kissed.
The following morning, Edna returns to Grand Isle, where she swims in the ocean naked while memories of her childhood flow through her head and she lets herself be enveloped by the ocean.
This strip of land that lies south of Louisiana is home to a resort that the Pontelliers have been attending for the summer. To Edna, it’s an idyllic land that is the place where she first woke up from the dream of her life and the one she returns to when she is despondent.
The metropolitan city is the place to where most all of the vacationers of Grand Isle resort to the rest of the season. It is the place of the Pontellier mansion from which Edna escapes from to a smaller home in the city.
One of the ways the books notes that Edna is progressing is through her movement through houses. She begins in the cottage of a wealthy resort as a conventional woman of her time. Following the night she night she begins her awakening and defies her husband’s demands, she spends the night at Madame Antoine’s. Returning to New Orleans, Edna continues her character growth in her mansion- a juxtaposition that points out Edna’s individualization even more. She finally moves to the “pigeon house” close to Reisz, signifying another shift.
Towards the middle and onward, the book focuses on how Edna has to reconcile the cost of being an independent woman in a world that wants to keep her dependent. Her friends and husband disapprove of her and even her own father taints the memory of his visit to her as he leaves and scolds her for not going to her sister’s wedding. Though Reisz reminds Edna about these issues through the metaphor of being a bird, it isn’t until Adele asks her to “think of the children” that the cost becomes real to her. Edna knows that she will leave an indelible mark on her children’s lives if she leaves and is thus tied down by them.
Edna is a young, twenty-eight year old American woman who is married to Leonce Pontellier and is the mother to two boys- Raoul and Etienne. Having grown up in Kentucky and then Mississippi, she is unfamiliar with the Creole culture to which her husband belongs. She married Leonce after a short romance and though appreciates his kindness and affection, does not love him or her children.
She takes steps towards self-realization that starts with an infatuation with Robert and begins to individualize herself from her family life in ways that make most all around her worried. Despite the joy that she feels in her independence, she also realizes that circumstances are built to weigh her down- a truth she must reconcile with herself.
A Creole man forty years of age, Leonce fell in love with Edna soon after meeting her. He treats her and his children like most things in his life- objects to be admired and evaluated for their value. Leonce expects all things in his life to go according to a particular plan and is deeply troubled by Edna’s changing behavior.
Robert is the twenty-six year old son of Madame Lebrun- the proprietor of the resort on Grand Isle- and the older brother of Victor Lebrun. Robert has a reputation amongst the resort’s vacationers of finding himself infatuated with a new woman every summer- often a married one. This summer, Edna Pontellier become the object of his obsession and inadvertently helps her reach self-realization.
Adele Ratignolle is considered the epitome of Creole femininity amongst the Grand Isle vacationers- not only in beauty, but in her matronly demeanor, as well. She spends much of her time with Edna as she is fond of her. She serves to remind Edna of the world that opposes her choices to be an independent woman.
Reisz is the counter to Adele. She is unattractive, old, unfriendly, and childless, but also independent, intelligent, and extremely talented. Whereas Adele dabbles in piano playing, Reisz is a master at the art. She serves to both encourage Edna and warn her of the dangers of being an independent woman.
Beginning with a description of life on Grand Isle, a resort on the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. Staying there is Leonce Pontellier, a businessman of forty. His twenty-eight year old wife, Edna, and his two boys of four and five are there, as well. Sitting on the porch and reading the paper, Edna comes from the beach with twenty-six year old Robert Lebrun, the son of the resort’s owner. As they sit down on porch, Leonce is described as commenting on Edna like a piece of property. Edna and Robert have clearly enjoyed their time together, and Leonce tries to understand what is making them laugh but fails to find it as entertaining as they did.
Once Leonce leaves to enjoy a game of pool at a hotel, the levity between Edna and Robert rises again.
Remaining on the porch, Edna and Robert talk about the happenings on Grand Isle and future plans. Robert aims to go to Mexico at one point, but has yet taken up the trip. He talks about how he has always spent his summer here with his mother and how the place allows her to make money to keep the lifestyle she wants. Edna describes her father’s plantation in Mississippi, growing up in Kentucky, and what her family is like and currently up to.
It becomes apparent that Leonce won’t be coming back for dinner, and Robert proceeds to play with Raoul and Etienne, the Pontellier children.
It isn’t until everyone at the Pontellier residence is asleep that Leonce comes home, waking up his wife as he does so. He interprets her half-woken state as disinterest and becomes disappointed. He checks up on the children to see how they are sleeping and finding himself unsatisfied with how they are laying down, attempts to move them into what he believes is a more appropriate sleeping position. He returns to the bedroom and then scolds Edna for not taking care of the children more, as he believes Raoul has fever despite her protestations. Edna finally relents and goes to check on them. When she returns, she refuses to speak to Leonce.
Once Leonce quickly falls asleep, Edna heads out to the porch and begins to cry. Though these spurts of crying were not an uncommon occurrence for Edna, it feels particularly bad now. While her husband is kind and loving, she senses some indescribable oppression rising up from her unconsciousness this time.
The following morning, Leonce leaves for New Orleans and both him and Edna forget the quarrel they had the night before. As Leonce is well liked, he is bid farewell by neighbors and his children.
A few days later, Edna receives a package from Leonce containing fruit, wine and various other foodstuffs. Mrs. Pontellier is accustomed to receiving these and shares them with her neighbors. As everyone compliments Leonce, she is forced to agree.
Leonce can’t quite pin down exactly why he thinks Edna is a lousy mother- it’s just something he feels. The boys are described as independent children who pick themselves up instead of crying after falling down and can already hold their own in a fight. In comparison to the other overbearing mothers on Grand Isle, Edna is not exceeding motherly.
Out of all the women on the island, Adele Ratignolle represents the epitome of the womanly ideal. Compared to Edna’s subtle attractiveness that is more akin to handsomeness than beauty, Adele is described as “the fair lady of our dreams.” Adele likes Edna and often spends time with her. The day that Leonce’s package came in, she is sitting with Robert and Edna upon the latter’s porch and creating a winter outfit for a baby that would enclose it entirely save the eyes. Edna makes half-hearted attempts at the sewing activity, not quite caring for it.
Adele insists on having a health condition that she never specifies but mentions always and is worried about eating nougat during her pregnancy. Robert is about to make a comment but sees that Edna is uncomfortable with the conversation and stops short. Growing up in a pure American culture, Edna is still not used to the candidness that she finds amongst the Creole’s conversations. Edna’s reticence extends to having read a ribald novel in private that everyone else had already read in the open.
It’s a well-known fact amongst the residents who summer often at Grand Isle that ever since he was 15, Robert finds himself enamored with one woman every season- often one who is already married. This summer, he finds himself often in the company of Edna. The young woman doesn’t mind it though, admiring the sight of the young man like “a faultless madonna.”
Robert’s past infatuation with Adele is the subject of conversation as the three of them sit on the porch. He describes how she asked him to do many things and then was left like a dog. There’s a good-natured tone about the conversation though, in that Robert seems to know that his proclamations of lover weren’t being taken seriously. The two joke about how a Creole husband never has reason to be jealous as their wives are the most faithful and subsequently, Creole men have lost their sense of passion. Edna wonders why Robert doesn’t take this same insincere, melodramatic tone when speaking with her, but is glad of it as she thinks she would find it annoying.
Edna begins to sketch Adele. Watching her work, Robert places his head on Edna’s arm twice, each time being gently pushed away. With the piece done, Adele notes that while she doesn’t think it looks like her, she does think it’s admirable work. Edna studies the sketch and then ends up smudging and crumpling the paper.
Edna’s children come up and help her put away the sketching tools. Though she wishes to talk to them, the children only returned home to see what was in the package delivered. She sends them away with some bonbons.
Adele then has a fainting spell, and both Edna and Robert help her get through it. Edna has her doubts about the veracity of the affliction, wondering if it was merely a show. Walking home, Adele is greeted by her children.
Robert convinces Edna to go to ocean, which the latter finds inviting.
While in the ocean, Edna wonders why she first refused Robert’s invitation to swim. She becomes aware of something illuminating insider herself that makes her think about the night she cried on the porch and her place in the world. The chapter ends with a description of how the ocean envelops and speaks to all people.
Edna manages to convince Adele to join her on the walk on the beach- one without Robert tagging along. The narrator compares the beauty of the two women in more detail. Edna has a body of straight lines whose elegance isn’t noticed unless someone takes careful consideration. Adele’s figure is more conventionally attractive.
They end up sitting on a rug in front of Adele’s beachside bathhouse. After some pleasantries, Adele notices Edna’s distracted stare and asks her what she is thinking about. Edna is surprised by the question, but then explains that the ocean reminded her of being a little girl back in Kentucky. She describes how one Sunday she avoided religious services and instead went to a field where the tall grass enveloped her as she passed through it. She reveals that this summer has felt awful much like that moment long ago.
In response, Adele expresses sympathy and caresses Edna’s hand. The affection surprises Edna, but lets it happen. Edna thinks about her relationships with family and friends. How her oldest sister quickly became a mother figure and how she argued often with her sister Janet. She thought about how her friends- like herself- were quiet, reserved, and smart.
Edna lets her mind wander to past loves. The narrator describes how the young woman was infatuated with a cavalry officer, a neighbor’s fiancée, and finally a dramatic actor whose picture she kept on her desk and often kissed. It was during this last crush that she met Leonce, a kind man who quickly fell in love with her. As Edna’s father and sister opposed the wedding, she was only spurred further into it. She supposed that her and Leonce had similar tastes and thoughts, but was proved wrong. Once married to Leonce, Edna put away her fantasy of marrying an actor and took to trying to be happy with the life she felt pushed into.
Though she feels strong spikes of emotion every now and then, her feelings about her family can be best described as “fond.” The narrator describes how when the boys spent time with their grandmother one summer and Leonce was away, she didn’t quite miss them.
Leaning on Adele’s arm for a bit, Edna then sees Robert, many children and the nursemaids coming towards them. The two ladies rise and Adele asks Robert to help her home, perhaps feigning another infirmity.
Walking back, Adele asks Robert to leave Edna alone. When asked why, Adele explains that as a non-Creole, Edna may take Robert’s infatuation seriously. She explains that while he may feel ridiculed at such a statement, the community knows his attentions have always lacked sincerity, which is why they are willing to trust him alone with the wives and daughters of the place. Robert turns the conversation to rumors about the sexual scandals of Alcee Arobin. Upon arriving at Adele’s cottage, Robert apologizes for his curt reaction and says that Edna would never take him seriously anyway. He gives Adele a cup of bouillon and then heads home.
Robert goes into his mother’s room to read while she sews. Victor- Robert’s younger brother- leaves without notice- something which bothers both Robert and his mother. Montel- a man who has taken a sort of father-figure role ever since Robert’s dad died when he was young- has sent a letter noting he is in Vera Cruz, Mexico if Robert wishes to join. Though annoyed that he wasn’t informed of this earlier, Robert’s attention quickly changes as he sees Edna returning from the beach with her children. He uses the excuse of lending something to go down to her.
A few weeks after the conversation between Robert and Adele, Madame Lebrun holds a party in the resort’s hall for the patrons. Though everybody there has heard their practicing, the children are asked to perform piano pieces and are lauded for their skill. Though Adele can’t dance, she ends up providing the music for the patrons to do so.
After having done much dancing, Edna sits out on the gallery where she can see the Gulf of Mexico. Robert asks her if she would like to hear Mademoiselle Reisz play. Though the older woman is not particularly liked amongst the vacationers and is known to argue with many, she agrees to come out of her cottage to the party to play for Edna, whom she is apparently fond of.
Edna enjoys music and vivid images come to her mind when she hears it. She has seen before a naked man staring at a bird and a woman dancing. She expects to see these again as Reisz begins to play, but instead she feels those emotions those images are correlating to; It’s such a surprise that Edna can’t help but cry. While leaving, Reisz comments that Edna is the only person worth playing for in that room, though everybody there immensely admired the performance. As the party dwindles down, Robert suggests that instead of going home they all go out for a swim.
The party heads out to the gulf and Edna notices that Robert isn’t walking with her family as he usually does. In fact, she notes that there have been whole days when she doesn’t see him. She misses him on those days, though she didn’t realize she would.
Edna has been attempting to learn how to swim with the help of many of the vacationers, but has found herself unable to without having someone close by. This evening though, some epiphany strikes her and she finds herself swimming quite well. She notes that it seems so effortless now and wonders why she had wasted so much time not knowing before. The party encourages and congratulates her. She swims alone and heads out farther than she has gone before. Whilst floating alone, the shore appears to Edna far away, causing her to panic a bit at the thought of drowning.
She makes it back and then dresses up. Though everybody is still out in the water and asks her not to, Edna leaves for home. Robert catches up with her and she explains how the night feels like a dream and wonders if she’ll ever again feel like she did when listening to Reisz’s playing. Though Robert understands what she feels, he instead creates an elaborate story containing ghosts as to explain her emotions.
Upon arriving at the Pontellier cottage, Robert turns towards his deferential habits in making Edna comfortable in the hammock. While sharing some moments of silence, the narrator notes that it marked the “first-felt throbbings of desire.”
Leonce arrives and finds Edna in the hammock. He tells her to go in, and after multiple requests denied he becomes angry. Edna thinks about how she has always consented to his wishes and wonders why she ever did. Leonce then sits outside with her, smoking and drinking. They both wait until some time before dawn, when sleep has finally worn down Edna, and she desires to go in. Walking back, she asks Leonce if he’s coming in, to which he says, “as soon as I have finished my cigar.”
The following morning, Edna feels compelled by nothing more than impulse and goes to Robert’s home to have him called upon. The narrator notes that this is the first time that she has done so, as he is always the one to show interest, but neither notices anything different. Though it’s early, her, Robert, and some other people have awoken early to take the boat to a nearby island for Sunday mass.
On the boat, Robert flirts with a Spanish girl named Mariequita. She asks if he and Edna are lovers and he responds no. While they talk in Spanish- which no one else on the boat understands- Edna observes the Mariequita’s bare, dirty feet and attractive eyes. She takes in the whole situation with ease and enjoys all of it.
Robert brings up to Edna the idea of spending time together on some of the islands. It sounds appealing to Edna, and they imagine the thought of finding pirate gold that they can spend frivolously. Edna feels that the events from last night have made her free from something she wasn’t aware was holding her down.
During the service, Edna suddenly gets dizzy and gets up to leave, with Robert following her. She explains that she felt giddy. Robert leads her to Madame Antoine’s house where she undresses, washes herself, and then lays in bed. She looks at her own skin with a new appreciation, and then proceeds to fall asleep.
She awakes later, finding that the house is empty save her and Robert. She asks if she has slept long enough for the rest of society to have died off, leaving only her and Robert. She eats voraciously and they end up sitting under an orange tree. When Madame Antoine returns, they listen to her tell stories about having lived on the island her entire life.
Upon returning to the cottage, Edna finds that Adele has been taking care of the children for her. Adele describes the happenings of the day- how Leonce almost left to go find Edna but was reassured by one of the service goers that she was merely tired; that Leonce had gone to Klein hotel to talk business with somebody. Adele leaves them, as her husband doesn’t enjoy being alone.
Once Edna comforts Etienne- who had been acting up until her arrival- she puts him to sleep and bids Robert farewell. She observes that she wishes he hadn’t left, as she feels it is quite right for him to be around her when he can.
She waits up for Leonce, singing a song that Robert had been singing earlier. She admires that his voice isn’t pretentious.
Some time after, Edna joins many of the vacationers in the dining room. The place is buzzing with news and Edna finds out that Robert has decided to leave that night for Vera Cruz. As she and him have been spending quite a lot of time together, she is entirely taken aback as he had not mentioned it. Robert claims that he had been planning on going for years but decided to leave tonight as the ship that will take him there leaves soon.
The room bursts into chatter about Mexican people and questions about Mexican-made prayer beads. Edna remains fairly quiet, asking only a few questions about when he was going, and if he was packed, then leaves the place to return to her cottage. There, she distracts herself by accomplishing various little chores around the house. When the boys should be put to sleep, she tells them an exciting story that just keeps them up longer.
She changes into her nightgown and goes out onto the porch. There, Madame Lebrun’s servant girl sends a message that the Madame would appreciate Edna’s company until Robert leaves. Edna turns down the invitation. Adele walks by to check on Edna, and they discuss Robert’s sudden departure as inconsiderate. Though she tries to convince Edna to join her and Madame Lebrun, Edna turns her down as well, and she leaves.
Robert arrives a little later and engages in a terse conversation with her. She admits that she enjoys his company and dislikes that he had not told her that he was leaving earlier. Robert stops himself short of explaining why that is the exact reason he should leave. Edna requests that he write her and he agrees. He walks down silently to the boatman.
As he leaves she bites down on her napkin in an attempt to hold back her tears. She realizes that this is the first time she has felt the infatuation that she did when she was a little girl and a young woman with the actor’s picture. She is distraught at knowing that her new self-awareness wanted Robert but will not be able to have him.
As summer comes to a close, Edna spends a lot of time swimming as it’s the only thing that makes her happy. She thinks about Robert often, trying to get others to talk about him; spending time with Madame Lebrun in her sewing room and asking about the Lebrun family while looking at pictures of them. It’s during one of these trips that she reads a letter Robert sent to his mother, giving information on how he was doing and indicating that if Edna wanted to finish the book they were reading, she could find it in his room. She’s jealous that she was not written to.
Upon hearing that Leonce saw Robert in the city, she asks him many questions about how he is doing. She doesn’t feel odd in doing so as the feelings she has for Robert are not the same ones she has for her husband.
When talking to Adele once, she remarks how she would give up everything but herself for her children. She seems to be saying that she would give up her life, wealth, and well being, but not her personhood. It strikes Adele as odd- enough to create a heated conversation between them.
One of the mornings that she heads out to the beach to swim, Mademoiselle Reisz comes up behind her to ask if she misses Robert. Reisz goes on about how Robert was the only decent member of the Lebruns. She recalls how he beat up his brother Victor when the latter had started yelling at him for spending time with a Spanish girl Victor had his eye on. It turns out to be Mariequita- the same girl from the boat ride to the island. Edna feels almost depressed listening to Reisz’s gossip, but after a swim and the walk back, the older woman seems friendlier and invites Edna to her place in New Orleans.
Leonce is described as a worldly man who is fond of his every possession. He sometimes walks around his New Orleans house just to admire the things he has. Tuesday is usually the day that Edna receives guests at their home- a habit she has kept for six years- and one Tuesday a few weeks after returning from Grand Isle, Leonce notices that she is not dressed in her usually elegant clothing. He comes to find out that she did not receive any guests that day and become quite irritated. She explains that she merely felt like leaving the house instead of staying in. Leonce goes through the cards left by visitors and details why each one is either urgent or not. Complaining about the food and bothered by Edna’s behavior, Leonce decides to leave to have his dinner somewhere else.
Edna notes that this is not a new occurrence and that most every other time it happened, she worried about the food menu, scolded the cook, considered the quality of the meals, lost her appetite, and ended up feeling inadequate after all that effort. This time though, she just ate her meal and felt anger instead of despair.
After finishing her meal, she goes up to her room, tries to break her wedding ring, and then breaks a vase.
The following morning, Edna refuses Leonce’s request of going to buy some furniture, and he tells her to rest up as she seems sick. Edna is uninterested in anything going on around her and proceeds to look over all her sketches with a critical eye. Picking a few that she doesn’t hate, she dresses up to meet with Adele, whose friendship has continued since Grand Isle. On her way, she thinks of Robert. Though she can’t pinpoint a particular thing about him that she misses, she feels that it’s the entirety of him that she thinks about often.
The narrator notes how the Ratignolle’s are known for throwing popular, elegant parties in their home that everyone wishes to be invited to. At their meeting, Edna pretends to want Adele’s opinion on whether or not she should take up drawing lessons. Edna has, in fact, already decided, and merely wants the affirmation. Adele encourages her to do so and invites her to stay for lunch.
Having had lunch with Adele and her husband doesn’t make her feel better or set an ideal for her to work for. She feels that the lifestyle is not for her and pities Adele a bit for the boredom that the life must bring. She considers the idea of “life’s delirium” and how it’s something she wants to feel.
Edna gives up having people over entirely and decides instead to do what she wants whenever she wants- mostly painting. Leonce is disturbed by this, pointing to Adele as an excellent example of a woman who both takes care of her family and pursues her particular hobby. Leonce leaves her alone at her request though, and Edna ends up painting portraits of everyone in the house.
The narrator notes that the change is due is due to the fact that Edna is now becoming her own person instead of pretending to be someone else. She paints as it reminds her of the ocean and her time on Grand Isle. Her emotions range wildly from day to day, and she can’t explain why; sometimes she hates people and other days she is blithe.
During one of her bum moods, she suddenly gains the desire to spend time Reisz. Having lost the woman’s address, Edna uses the directory. The address listed is Reisz’s old apartment, and upon asking the nearby grocer about her, Edna receives nothing but negative comments.
Knowing that Adele won’t have Reisz’s address, Edna heads to Madame Lebrun’s house to ask her for it. She is greeted by Robert’s brother- Victor- who waits with her until his mother comes down to see her. Whilst waiting, Victor starts telling her about how he spent night before on the town. Though she knows she should act prudish, she is amused by the tale.
When Madame Lebrun comes down, she learns Robert has sent two letters since his departure, neither containing any messages for Edna. Upon receiving Reisz’s address, Victor escorts her to her carriage where he flirts with her a bit. Again, Edna knows she should be acting more reserved, but can’t help but laugh. When she has left, both Madame Lebrun and Victor note that she seems to have changed for the better.
Reisz is surprisingly happy to see Edna- uncharacteristically laughing with delight. Their conversation is polite but straightforward, with Edna saying that she is unsure about liking Reisz and Reisz saying she does not know if Edna can be a true artist. The older woman notes that an artist needs to have a courageous soul that can defy. Reisz reveals that Robert has sent her a letter that is all about Edna. Through some persistence, Edna manages to acquire the letter and reads it while Reisz plays for her.
Edna bursts into tears and asks if she can come again. Reisz says that she is welcome whenever, leads her out, picks up the tear-stained letter from the floor and returns it to the envelope it came in.
Worried about his wife, Leonce visits an old doctor of the family- Mandelet. He tries to explain to the doctor what it is about his wife that worries him, but Mandelet shoots down each of his concerns. When the doctor learns that Edna has become antisocial, he is genuinely surprised. Though Leonce believes that spending time with her family will help her, Edna has suddenly lost interest in attending her youngest sister’s wedding, describing all weddings as a “lamentable spectacle.” Leonce mentions that her family’s home in Kentucky had to be sold as a way to pay off her father’s horse racing bets.
In the end, he suggests to Leonce to let her live her own way and leave her alone. He characterizes women as beings who can’t be understood by men and the latter shouldn’t attempt to do so. So as not to raise Edna’s suspicions, they arrange for Mandelet to join them one evening for dinner as a cover for him to check up on her.
Mandelet wonders if another man is involved, but decides not to ask the question of Leonce.
Having come down to pick out a gift for his daughter’s wedding and an outfit that would be appropriate for the event, Edna ends up spending time with her father. Edna appreciates the chance to redirect her emotions, and though she is not particularly close to her father, enjoys the time she spends with him. The old, Confederate colonel isn’t particularly fond of the children, shooing them away when he is posing for Edna’s sketches. The narrator describes how he believes each of his daughters has immense ability that only awaits for them to unlock it.
Edna takes her father to one of the Ratignolle’s grand parties where he is doted upon by all the attendees- particularly Adele, who puts on a coquettish air when talking to him. Edna is aware of it happening, but finds the practice strange, as she herself has never acted in such a way. Though she finds men she meets attractive, she doesn’t put on the same airs that Adele does when she talks to men. Leonce doesn’t enjoy the Ratignolle’s parties, preferring clubs. Adele reproaches the behavior and suggests that if he stayed home more often instead of going out, he and Edna would have a better marriage. Edna shoots down the idea remarking that they’d have nothing to talk about.
Her father’s company entertains Edna, and she feels like she knows him for the first time in her life. She finds amusement in serving him, a behavior that Leonce interprets as an expression of love.
One evening after a day at the racetrack, Mandelet joins Edna, her father and Leonce for dinner at their house. Leonce voices disapproval of their gambling (thinking of the home they lost due to it) and find himself at odds with Edna and her father because of it. Mandelet observes that Edna seems vivacious throughout the meal.
The conversation then moves to storytelling with Mandelet recounting tales of the area’s history. Edna’s father tells grim war stories about his time in the Civil War. Edna makes up a vivid story about lovers getting lost on a boat in the Gulf Coast that enraptures the listeners. She attributes the story to Madame Antoine, but that’s incorrect.
Walking home Mandelet is now sure that Edna is in love with another man, and only hopes that this other man is not Alcee Arobin.
Upon learning that Edna will not be attending her sister’s wedding, her father becomes irritated and scolds her for the decision. Leaving, he tells Leonce that the only way to manage a wife is through authority and coercion though it’s these same tactics that Leonce believes killed Edna’s mother. Edna is now glad to see her father go; the man has worn out his welcome and now instead of finding him entertaining; she finds all his little habits- Bible reading, drink mixing, etc.- tiresome.
As Leonce starts off for his long trip to New York to take care of business, Edna finds herself acting darned much like she would expect Adele to. She worries about what he packs, tells him to take care of his health and shows much affection. The children leave as well, Leonce’s mother missing the young boys and taking them to the country home so as to experience a little the same life that Leonce had as a little boy.
Once left alone, Edna finds herself exploring the home as if she has never lived there before. She leaves the duties of taking care of the place to her servants and spends time in the garden, playing with the boys’ dog. Though her family comes to her mind, she enjoys the relative solitude and takes aim to make the best of her time by reading more.
Edna’s emotions continue to vary to extremes. She feels herself becoming too familiar to the despair-like emotion that she has when she feels her life is unfulfilling. She spends much of her time on the racetrack and is one day asked to join Alcee Arobin and Mrs. Highcamp at the track, where the others discover she is quite knowledgeable in the sport. Mrs. Highcamp uses her daughter as a way to have the company the younger men of New Orleans society, of which Alcee belongs to. Though Edna isn’t fond of Mrs. Highcamp, she majorly enjoys the cheerful disposition of Alcee. Alcee himself has always admired Edna, but only grows an interest in her when they saw each other with Edna’s father present. Alcee accompanies her home and gets her to agree to come to the races with him again. Finishing her dinner, Edna fines herself still energetic and wishes that something would happen; that she would’ve asked Alcee to stay longer.
Some days pass and Alcee invites her to the races again. As Mrs. Highcamp can’t join them, and they can’t find the company of anyone else they’d like along, they spend the time together alone. She lets her guard down with him, which is easy as he has a personable attitude.
That evening at Edna’s house, Alcee shows her a scar he said he acquired from a duel in Paris. Edna holds his arm, where the mark is. The intimacy makes her uncomfortable- even more so as he insists on spending more time with her, kissing her hand as he does so. She apologizes to him if her demeanor has misled him, but he only blames himself for his feelings.
Once she leaves, she feels guilty, not because of her marriage to Leonce, but because she worries she has been unfaithful to Robert.
After the incident at her house, Alcee writes Edna a note apologizing for his behavior. Edna is unsure as to whether ignore the note and risk making it seem more serious than it actually was or writing sincerely and give the impression that she had been affected by his kiss. In the end, she decides to give a slightly flippant response that passes the whole thing off as nothing. She writes he is welcome to come over anytime to see her paintings and he does so soon quickly after receiving her letter.
They end up spending quite a lot of time together, with him submitting to her inconstant emotions and conversing with her with candor.
Edna is also spending much time with Reisz. Edna tells the older woman that she is planning to move out of the house, as she has saved up money from winning at the racetrack and saving some from her father’s allowance to her. Reisz is unsurprised, only conversing with Edna in a way that makes the latter reveal her true motivations as to why she wants to move. As it turns out, it’s only a whim that Edna wishes to indulge.
Sometimes, Robert will have sent Reisz a letter, which she shares with Edna; the old woman plays the piano while Edna reads it. This time, Edna discovers that Robert has decided to come back. Thrilled at the prospect, Edna talks to Reisz about the nature of love and why it is that she feels that way about Robert. She finally admits that the emotions she has been having for Robert are actually love.
That evening, Alcee comes to spend time with Edna and notices that she is acting differently, though she doesn’t reveal why. As he affectionately strokes her hair, she wonders out loud what kind of woman she is in light of all the social mores she has grown up to know. Though Alcee tries to flatter her, she doesn’t fall for it.
She talks about Reisz and her odd thoughts. She mentions a time when Reisz checked Edna’s shoulders to see if her “wings were strong” enough to fly over prejudice and tradition. Alcee suggests that the woman is demented, but Edna disagrees.
He then kisses her, giving her the first kiss of her life that she truly strongly responds to in a physical way.
Though Edna had written to Leonce about moving out, she decides not to wait for a response and begins to move the day after her kiss with Alcee. Alcee shows up in the midst of the bustle, offering to help a bit. Edna keeps the maid around to make sure they’re not alone together, but he manages to send her away when he requests a cup of water.
Alone, Alcee asks when he’ll have the chance to see her again. Edna tells him to wait until the dinner party she is throwing, and he concedes.
As Adele and Madame Lebrun are unable to join Edna’s dinner party, a group of ten people meet at her house the night of it. It’s revealed that the night of the dinner is also Edna’s twenty-ninth birthday.
The party guests talk about various things. Reisz gives a poor opinion of the local orchestra. One of the guests tries to tell a dull story that someone pretends to like. Mrs. Highcamp seems disinterested in Victor Lebrun until he starts talking to a younger woman. Monsieur Ratignolle asks Alcee about his family. Through it all though, Edna feels a sense of ennui, as Robert is not there.
At one point, Mrs. Highcamp dresses a tipsy Victor in a wreath and scarf. Asked to sing, Victor begins the same tune that Robert sang when he and Edna returned from the island to Grand Isle during the summer. Edna asks him to stop, breaking her glass in the process as she slams it down for emphasis, but thinking her insincere, Victor continues. Edna gets up and puts her hand over his mouth, which he kisses and then stops singing. The party breaks up and people start heading home.
Edna and Alcee lock up the house, and he accompanies her to the new, smaller one. As a surprise, he has sent flowers ahead and had the maid set them up, but Edna makes no remark. Tired, she sits down in a chair. They discuss how the party went and how she feels. As he’s about to leave, he begins caressing her- something that she does not protest.
Having received Edna’s letter, Leonce sends a disapproving letter regarding her decision to move out as it may give the impression that the family has lost money. Knowing that Edna has most likely already completed the action, Leonce simultaneously sends for architects to start remodeling his house, providing the perfect cover-up so as not to lose face.
Edna admires her husband’s quick thinking, but does not regret the decision to move out. While the house feels like a drop in social status, it also feels like an expansion of her happiness and self-awareness.
She goes to her mother-in-law’s country home to visit her children. While there she is overjoyed with tears and takes a strong interest in their activities. Once she returns home without them, they slip out of her mind, and she is quite content alone.
Adele comes to visit Edna in her new apartment, whom Edna has not come to see in a long while. Adele notes that Edna seems like a child sometimes, making rash decisions. She points out that perhaps it’s wiser to not spend time with Alcee, as his reputation amongst other men is quite pathetic. That same afternoon she is visited by Mrs. Merriman and Mrs. Highcamp, who invite her to join them at a play. Edna agrees to go, though she doesn’t care much for either of them.
Edna finds herself spending time with Reisz when she wants relief from the day or to talk about Robert. During this particular day, Edna goes to find the house empty. Reisz leaves a hidden key with which to enter, and Edna uses it. She toils around in the garden a bit and then waits for Reisz by the piano. Suddenly, Robert walks in, and it’s revealed that he has been in New Orleans for two days. Edna is disappointed that he didn’t come to see her immediately, and begins to doubt the infatuation she has been harboring all this time.
Their conversation is awkward, with Edna attempting to maintain her composure despite her feelings. She gets up to leave, saying that Reisz won’t likely come back until much later. Robert decides to leave as well and accompanies her home. On their way back, they spot her house in the midst of construction and Leonce points out that he never knew her when she was in her home- Edna notes it was for the better.
Arriving at her apartment, Edna invites Robert to stay for dinner, and he agrees to do so. While looking around he notices a picture of Alcee amongst sketches and papers. He proceeds to ask questions about the picture and his relation to Edna, with Edna explaining that the picture is for a piece she was working on and that he is her acquaintance. She changes the subject back to Robert, asking him what he thought about in Mexico. Robert answers that he was thinking about Grand Isle then asks her what she has been thinking about. Using his exact phrasing, Edna answers that she has been thinking about Grand Isle, as well.
Dinner starts and the pair move to small talk discussing things that have happened while they’ve been apart. Returning from a quick trip to pick up cigarette paper, Robert notices that the coffee is out and offers to leave if he is imposing. Edna assures him that he isn’t, reminding him of all the time they spent at Grand Isle. Here, Robert notes that he has not forgotten anything about their time there.
Packing one of his cigarettes, Robert pulls out a silk tobacco pouch that Edna notes is different than the rubber one he had at Grand Isle. He explains that a girl from Vera Cruz gave it to him, and Edna gently presses questions to him about her. Robert gets nervous and places the pouch back in his pocket just as Alcee comes by.
Alcee has dropped in to tell Edna that the card game with Mrs. Merriman was postponed. Robert greets Alcee and they engage in small talk. Quickly, Robert leaves and bids them farewell. Deciding not to go the card party, Edna writes a note for Alcee to mail on his way out. Alcee assumes they will do something, but Edna tells him that she merely wants to be alone. He leaves her with flattering words, though she takes none of it sincerely.
Alone, Edna thinks over every moment she just spent with Robert and feels jealousy at the thought of the Mexican girl he met there. She also notes that she felt closer to him gone more than now that he is here.
The next morning, Edna wakes up more assured of Robert’s love for her. She imagines his daily activities and how he will come later in the evening for dinner like last night. She is convinced that eventually Robert’s reticence will break down, and he will admit his love for her.
She receives three letters: one from her sons describing how they found new piglets at the farm, another from her husband discussing how they’ll go on a trip abroad, and one from Alcee declaring his love for her. She responds to the first two but burns the last.
Robert doesn’t come back to dinner that night, or any night after. The process leaves her sad every night and hopeful every morning. She avoids any of the places she could run into him. After some days, Alcee invites her to a carriage ride, which she takes up. That night she feels no depression and no hope the following morning.
While sitting at a garden cafe in the suburbs that she often goes to, Edna finds that Robert has arrived, as well. Though Edna had decided she would act as indifferently as Robert when she next ran into him, she finds herself unable to. Robert is uncomfortable with the situation, but agrees to stay for dinner. Edna continues to make Robert uncomfortable by confronting him on why he has avoided her, explaining that even if it’s unwomanly, she feels compelled to express her feelings. Robert asks why she is making him tell false excuses. The conversation turns to small talk, and he accompanies her home.
At her small apartment, Edna kisses Robert and they begin to confess their love to one another, Edna describing how Robert woke her from the dull life she had been living. He explains that he went to Mexico as to get away from her, as with her being married only made him realize his love was never to be requited. He mentions that she belongs to Mr. Pontellier and she ridicules the idea that she is owned by anyone.
One of Adele’s servants comes by to say that Edna service is requested, as Adele has gone into labor. Though he doesn’t want her too, Edna leaves Robert and tells him to wait, reassuring him that they’ll be together.
Edna arrives at Adele’s home at the beginning of her labor. The latter is dramatically denouncing the doctor and questioning why everyone has abandoned her. Doctor Mandelet arrives to help Adele and takes the situation as lightly as the nurse, despite Adele’s panic. Edna stays throughout the entire thing and feels uncomfortable at having to remember her own childbirth.
The birth finished, Edna bids Adele farewell by kissing her forehead. While leaning in, Adele- without provocation or context- tells Edna to “think of the children.”
Dazed from the event, Edna turns down Mandelet’s offer of a ride, choosing instead to walk. Mandelet directs his car to her house to meet him there and accompanies her. She thinks out loud about what Adele said, how it’s better to be awake than asleep but perhaps not at the price of children. Understanding Edna’s jumbled words, Mandelet offers himself as someone that can be trusted, and tells Edna that they can talk of things she never thought she’d talk about.
After Mandelet leaves, Edna stops short of going inside and instead sits on the porch. She lets her negative emotions dissipate as she thinks of Robert and fantasizes about touching him. Though Adele’s words struck her intensely, Edna decides that tomorrow will be the appropriate time to consider the consequences of her action regarding her children.
Upon entering, she finds that Robert is gone, having left only a note that reads “I love you. Good-by- because I love you.” Edna’s heart is broken and lies down on the sofa. She spends the entire night awake.
On Grand Isle, Victor is doing some repairs while flirting with Mariequita and describing the dinner party he attended at Edna’s house. As they talk, Edna herself comes from around the corner, disheveled and dirty. Edna has come by boat to the island with no company and notes that the place seemed “dreary and deserted.” Victor quickly offers her his own room, as it’s the only place ready to house people. Edna asks when dinner will be ready, as she is hungry, and says she would like to take a swim. While both Victor and Mariequita think the idea is foolish as the water is cold, Edna insists and asks them to bring her towels.
Walking to the beach, Edna doesn’t think of anything, as her night spent on the couch was where she had done all the thinking she needed to do. She had thought about how neither Leonce nor Alcee mattered, and that the only person she wanted near her was Robert. She realized that it was inevitable that she would forget Robert and move on, but she also knew that her children were shackling her to a life that she didn’t want. The narrator notes, “she knew a way to elude them.”
Along the way to the shore, the giant sea stretches before her, and she sees a bird with a broken wing floating down towards the water. Instead of changing into her swimsuit, Edna chooses to go naked instead and feels like a new person. She starts swimming out and doesn’t stop nor look back. She thinks about how Robert didn’t understand her nor ever would. Possibly Mandelet would’ve, but it was already too late. She continues to swim- growing ever more tired- and as she recalls childhood memories of the Kentucky meadow of tall grass and the colonel she was infatuated with as a child, she lets the sea embrace her.
Straff Venture is angry that Zane sent a group of his allomancers to their deaths while Vin still lives. Zane promises that he has a plan to take care of her. Meanwhile, Straff meets with Penrod, the new king of Luthadel. Penrod is planning to give Luthadel to Straff, opening the gates to him and handing over the kingship. Straff, on the other hand, doesn’t want to enter the city while Vin still lives. Later, Zane tells Straff that he has been poisoned again. Zane leaves, and Straff is forced to ride hard back into the camp so his mistress can make him another antidote tea.
Vin awakes to see that Elend is with her. He tells her that he is not king, and he reports that OreSeur, who was badly hurt in the fight, is currently digesting a new set of bones. Vin feels that Elend is now scared of her somehow because of the way she fought those allomancers. Vin goes back to sleep, and awakes to find Zane there. He accuses her, saying that she could have killed those attackers easily had she not been so distracted with protecting Elend and other innocents. Later, OreSeur visits Vin, in another dog’s body. They talk more about the Contract that binds all kandra. Vin uses brass and duralumin to push strongly on OreSeur’s emotions. Even though he at first does not react at all, with enough force, Vin hurts him very badly, and she felt like she were controlling him for a moment. She apologizes for hurting OreSeur, and he leaves to get some rest. Vin promise to never tell anyone what she’s discovered about kandra.
Sazed and Tindwyl continue to talk about the things they are learning. Something doesn’t make sense about the rubbings, written by Kwaan. It seems that Kwaan did not trust Alendi, but he also knew Alendi was a good man. But if Kwaan knew Alendi was good, why did he have his nephew, Rashek, to mislead or even kill Alendi? Elend comes in and asks for advice. After a discussion, he decides that being king isn’t about a title, but about doing something to help others. He returns to his closet and retrieves the white suite, the one made for a king.
Elend is hard at work, helping the people. He’s sending men out to dismantle the wooden parts of keeps and houses to use as firewood. The many refugees are cold and hungry, and he wants to help them. Someone comes with news that one of the gates under the river has been broken. That is how someone has been getting into the city and poisoning the wells. Also, other reports say that an Inquisitor is lurking about the city. Elend decides to go out and talk to Jastes, with the koloss army, himself. He rides out and meets Jastes, unable to make any kind of deal. On the way out, Elend manages to fight and kill one smaller koloss, earning the sword and pouch as his own. He looks into the pouch and discovers how Jastes is controlling the koloss. He’s paying them.
Vin sees Elend, now returned from his meet with the koloss army, inured and resting. Zanes comes and says that Cett was the one that planed the attack at the voting ceremony. Vin gets angry and decides to attack Cett. Zane and Vin attack the keep that Cett has been staying at in Luthadel. Together, they kill guards and hazekillers. Fueled by rage, Vin kills quickly, working her way to Cett’s room. She realizes that Zane is using atium, while she has none, and yet she’s killing just as easily as he is. They finally get to Cett’s room, where he is with his son. Vin fights them at first, but when she discovers that neither of them is an allomancer and that Cett doesn’t have a single allomancer with him, she leaves them behind, injured and scared.
The crew sees that Cett’s army is now leaving, a result of Vin’s attack on his keep the night before. Elend does not know why Vin attacked Cett like that. Some in the crew think she’s crazy, but Elend just sees her as determined. They also discover that the “coins” Jastes has been using to control the koloss are fake, wooden coins painted gold. Elend goes to find Vin, who is hiding in the city. He finds her with OreSeur’s help. She says she must leave Luthadel and go north, to Terris. Elend says he trust her to do the right thing. They have one large bead of atium, and Vin gives it to OreSeur to hold for her.
Sazed and Tindwyl compare notes, studying the rubbing and other references they’ve managed to find. Tindwyl admits that she doesn’t believe in these prophecies, her interest in them being purely academic. Sazed, on the other hand, thinks Vin might actually be the next Hero of the Ages. While they talk, they discover that someone–or something–has torn a piece from one of the transcription pages. Vin comes in, while they try to figure out at what point were they both gone or occupied to not have seen an intruder going through their things. Vin asks Sazed how she can know if she’s in love. They talk about trust. After Vin leaves, Elend comes in and starts asking similar questions. Elend thinks he and Vin are too different to make a couple, but Sazed says that, to him, they are more alike than they think. After Elend leaves, Sazed realizes that Luthadel is going to fall soon; he needs to get both Elend and Vin out of the city before that happens.
Sazed calls a meeting with the members of the crew: Dockson, Breeze, Ham, and Clubs. He doesn’t invite Elend, Vin, or Spook. They talk about how the city is sure to fall. Straff apparently is in no hurry to take Luthadel. Instead, he’ll back off and let the koloss attack the city first. The koloss will win and enter the city, pillaging as they go. Then, with the koloss weakened and tired from the fight, Venture will ride in like a hero and save the city, defeating the koloss and taking Luthadel for himself. Sazed says that Elend and Vin need to get out of the city before these things happen. He wants Spook and Tindwyl to go with them. The rest of the group will have to stay and fight and die. Meanwhile, Vin feels she must follow the drumming she hears all the time. In Straff’s camp, Zane is attacked by his father’s men. He defeats them, but spares his father. He leaves, saying that tonight he will take Vin with him and leave Luthadel. He tells Straff that he should wait for the koloss to attack and then take the city.
Vin is in her room with OreSeur when Zane visits. He wants her to come with him, but she says she can’t because she doesn’t want to leave Elend. When Zane sees that she won’t go, he attacks her. They fight. When Zane starts to burn atium, Vin asks OreSeur for the large bead, a bead Zan had given her before. OreSeur doesn’t respond to her command. Vin discovers that OreSeur is not OreSeur. He is TenSoon, Zane’s kandra. Of course! There was no other spy. The bones they found were TenSoon’s and he had killed OreSeur! Zane corners Vin, but Vin uses a massive soothing to take control of OreSeur/TenSoon and attack Zane from behind. She then cuts the bead of atium fro TenSoon. But this is another trick. The bead is lead, with only a thin layer of atium. Soon, Vin is left helpless against a Mistborn killer with atium. Vin decides that Zane can see what she’s about to do, or, rather, what she plans on doing. If she attacks without thinking, though, she can, see in Zane’s reaction what she is going to do, only to change it at the last possible second. The trick works, and Vin defeats Zane. After Zane dies, she thanks OreSeur/TenSoon for helping her win. His contract is void, and he must return to his people. Vin goes to find Elend.
Elend is in his study when Vin comes in, bloody from her fight with Zane. She tells him that she killed him. He calls for Sazed, who comes to help with the wounds. While she is there, on the ground, she asks Sazed if he knows any wedding ceremonies. Of course, he knows hundreds. Vin asks which one is the shortest, and Sazed recalls one that only requires a declaration of love between the bride and groom before an ordained witness. Vin and Elend both say that they love each other, and Sazed declares them married. The wounds are clean, and Sazed sends Vin to get some rest. He also gives them a fake map to find the Well of Ascension. If the couple follows the map, they’ll be gone from Luthadel for a long time.
Elend and Vin prepare to ride out of the city. Tindwyl decides to stay in Luthadel. Spooks gets ready to go, and Allrianne will ride out, at Breeze’s insistence. So the four of them ride out, Vin quickly having to fight pursuers from Straff’s army. Once they are free, Allrianne breaks off to find her father’s army. Meanwhile, some of the crew watch as the escape, now sure of their own coming doom. Straff Venture hears of the escapes, but he has problems of his own now. He’s getting sick, which he knows is the result of poisoning from his son, Zane. He sends for his mistress, Amaranta, to fix him an antidote, but he discovers that she isn’t preparing what she normally does. She is actually killing, as she has for a long time. There never was any poison. Zane never tried to kill his father. But Amaranta, in her constant fixing of teas for Straff, has been causing him to become addicted to a rare drug. Without that drug, Straff will die. Straff, in a rage, kills Amaranta and then swallows as much powder from her medicine cabnet as he can, hoping to accidentally swallow some of the drug he needs before he loses consciousness.
Allrianne has made her way to her father’s camp, with the help of some bandits she’s tamed with her rioting. Her father, Cett, is not happy to see her. She convinces him to go back and join the winning party in the battle that is to come, although Cett promises that will likely be Straff. Meanwhile, Elend wakes up on the third morning out of Luthadel. He and Vin share a tent now, and he finds himself surprisingly comfortable on the hard ground, with Vin next to him. They get up and prepare the fire. It’s just the three of them: Elend, Vin, and Spook. Meanwhile Straff wakes up in bed. His men have taken care of him, and they’ve isolated the plant he needs to stay alive. When he hears that Vin and Elend have left the city, the men ask if they should attack now. Straff says no; they should pull back and wait for the koloss. Sazed meets with the others to plan a strategy for when the koloss attack. They plan to have a group of men at each gate. Saze and Tindwyl get a little time together, but then the warning drums begin to beat.
Vin is thinking about how the mist is staying later and later every day, instead of just disappearing with dawn, when she feels the pulsing of the mist spirit coming from Elend’s tent. She runs in, just in time to see the outline of that spirit lift some kind of knife to attack Elend, who is sleeping on the ground. She attacks the spirit and it disappears. Elend wakes up and never knows what was happening. She leaves Elend to sleep a little more and goes out to speak with Spook. He thinks someone is following them. Meanwhile, Sazed and the crew get ready, since it looks like the Koloss are about to attack. Men are at each gate, with one crewmember there to help. Straff sees that the koloss are attacking, but he tells his men to wait. Vin and Elend attack the camp of people that have been following them. It turns out to be Jastes. He’s lost control of the koloss, so he just left them. Elend kills Jastes because of his crimes against Luthadel. Vin discovers that the drumming sounds are getting softer, meaning the well is to the south, in Luthadel, and not in the Terris mountains.
Breeze works at his assigned gate, soothing soldiers by the dozen, helping them to be brave and fight well. The koloss pound at the door, while men atop the wall rain arrows down on the attackers. The koloss throw rocks up in return, smashing archers. Meanwhile, Vin runs towards Luthadel, burning pewter. She knows she will run out of pewter long before reaching Luthadel, and she wonders if the effect will kill her. But still she keeps running. Breeze and Clubs talk while the koloss continue to beat the gate. They blame themselves for being stupid enough to be in this mess, and they blame Kelsier for getting them into such responsibilities. Just then, the gates burst open. Meanwhile, Sazed gets word that Breeze’s gate had fallen. He doesn’t think he can really help. He notices that there is a crowd of skaa standing behind the defense force. When Sazed confronts them, telling them that they should flee to safety inside the city, the skaa answer that they are there to witness the fall of the koloss at the hands of Vin, who they are sure will return and make her appearance at Sazed’s gate. Then the gate breaks. Sazed musters his stored strength, growing in size, and faces the lead koloss, shouting for the men to fight. Vin, half collapsing and out of pewter, reaching a small village. At first she thinks to ask for pewter, but then she remembers how she used to travel with Kelsier on a path of metal bars in the ground. She asks for horseshoes, using them to “walk” by leaping, placing horseshoes ahead of her and pulling the ones behind to place further. In this way, she uses the horseshoes like stilts to help her travel in the air.
Outside Luthadel, Straff Venture sees that the koloss have now broken into the city gates. His men are ready to attack the koloss from the rear, but Straff decides to wait longer. Sazed, fighting the koloss, realizes that they need to get the gate closed again in order to survive. Using strength and weight, he manages to fight off the koloss and get the gate closed again. While getting a little break, a messenger comes and says that Tindwyl’s gate fell over an hour ago. Meanwhile, Clubs and Breeze are attacked and forced to run. Clubs is killed, while Breeze hides in a building. Dockson contemplates the root of their failure. He attacks a koloss, only to be cut down. Straff decides not to swoop in a save the city while the koloss are weak. Instead, he’d rather wait for the koloss to kill everyone and burn the city. Then Straff will move in. Meanwhile, Sazed fights on, wondering what happened to Tindwyl. He feels he is going to die, but then Vin arrives and starts killing koloss. Breeze is found by Ham and some others. They want to try to escape.
Vin continues killing koloss, several at a time. Sazed, outside Lord Penrod’s keep, begs the newly appointed king to go with them as they try to escape. Penrod insists on staying inside his keep. Vin continues to fight the koloss, but now she is almost completely out of pewter, steel, and almost every other metal. In desperation, to save some skaa from certain death, she super-soothes them, like she’d done to TenSoon, controlling the koloss with her mind. Sazed is standing outside Penrod’s keep when Vin walks up with koloss in tow. She orders Penrod to gather his men and put out the fires in Luthadel. Vin will take care of the koloss throughout the city. Later, Sazed finds Tindwyl’s dead body among the slain soldiers. He feels that all the faith, all the religions, he has always treasured is now useless. His life, he believes, has been a sham.
Straff wakes up and takes a sample of the drug he needs to stay alive. He gathers his men, expecting to be able to take the city now. But the koloss come out with the remaining soldiers of Luthadel. Vin jumps from among the koloss, sailing through the sky with a giant sword, cleaving Straff and his horse in half on impact. Allrianne watches these events from her father’s camp. She charges after them to help Luthadel’s army, forcing her father and his men to ride after her. Straff’s army surrenders, and Janarle, Straff’s general, is named the new Lord of the Venture army. Janarle, Penrod, and Cett all swear loyalty to Elend as their Emperor. Vin, needing rest, leaves Sazed in charge of the Empire until Elend can return to Luthadel.