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Transcript of Dr. Madelet
3. The doctor tells a story. Assuming it’s true, why does he choose this one to tell?
-“He told the old, ever new and curious story of the waning of a woman’s love, seeking strange, new channels, only to return to its legitimate source after days of fierce unrest. It was one of the many little human documents which had been unfolded to him during his long career as a physician.” (Pg 70)
-The doctor tells a tale of a female patient who eventually came to her senses after pursuing multiple stray affections
-Edna responds with a fictional story of a woman who disappears forever into the islands with her lover
-He was hoping his story would relate to Edna’s thoughts at the time
-Her love was waning and seeking “strange new channels”
-He hoped that she would get a hint from the ending, in which the woman returned to her original man
-He wants her to go back to Mr. Pontellier and remain faithful
-“The story did not seem especially to impress Edna.” (Pg 70)
1. When Leonce asks Dr. Mandelet what to do about his much-changed wife, what advice does the doctor give? What question does he not ask?
“Pontellier”, said the Doctor, after a moment’s reflection, “let your wife alone for a while. Don’t both her, and don’t let her bother you. Woman, my dear friend, is a very peculiar and delicate organism- a sensitive, and highly organized woman, such as I know Mrs. Pontellier to be, is especially peculiar. It would require an inspired psychologist to deal successfully with them. And when ordinary fellows like you and me attempt to cope with their idiosyncrasies the result is bungling. Most women are moody and whimsical. This is some passing whim of your wife, due to some cause or causes which you and I needn’t try to fathom. But it will pass happily over, especially if you let her alone. Send her around to see me” (66)
In short, he tells Mr. Pontellier to give Edna some space, and that as she is a woman she is simply going through a phase of peculiar rebellion that will end soon enough. He attributes Mrs. Pontellier’s rather extreme symptoms to her being outstanding specimen, one who is “sensitive, and highly organized”, and suggests that Mr. Pontellier send his wife for a visit to his office if needs be.
Though he suspects it, he does not ask if Mrs. Pontellier is perhaps seeing another man.
4. In what way is Edna’s tale of “pure invention” a response to the doctor’s story?
2. During the dinner, what change in Edna does he notice? With what striking metaphor does he describe her?
5. What does the doctor say as the walks home? Why does he say this?
6. As they walk home after the birth, what warning does the doctor give Edna? What comfort does he give her?
He acknowledges that she is in a biological trap and offers to help her if she opens up to him. He says “Nature takes no account of moral consequences, of arbitrary conditions, which we create, and which we feel obliged to maintain at any cost” (pg. 111). So he is saying in a kind way that she will need to give in to her children, and put aside her own troubles with love and her internal battles. He comforts her by saying he will not blame her under the condition that she comes to talk to him and that he doesn’t want her to blame herself. He makes it know that he cares about her.
“You seem to me to be in trouble. I am not going to ask for your confidence. I will only say that if ever you feel moved to give it to me, perhaps I might help you. I know I would understand, and I tell you there are not many who would – not many, my dear” (pg.112).
This is Dr. Mandelet comforting Edna.
“She reminded him of some beautiful, sleek animal waking up in the sun”
“He could discern in Mrs. Pontellier no trace of that morbid condition which her husband had reported to him. She was excited and in a manner radiant. He observed his hostess attentively from under his shaggy brows, and noted a subtle change which had transformed her from the listless woman he had known into a being who, for a moment, seemed palpitant with the forces of life.” (70)
He perceives that she is much more alive and energetic, and seems to be savoring life rather than appearing “listless” as she had during his prior encounters with her. The changes he sees in her are positive, as if she is just “awakening” from the state of repression that was hiding the true force of her charms.
"I hope it isn't Arobin," he muttered to himself as he walked. "I hope to heaven it isn't Alcee Arobin."
The exchange between Edna and Doctor Mandelet was essentially a query and response. Doctor Mandelet desired this to be a story Edna could find that she related to, something that could place an idea in her mind. It was also a test to see how she reacted, as he was as of yet not fully sure of what the origin of Edna's behavior was. Edna replied in the same protocol, just like the format of Doctor Mandelet's test: with a story relevant to her beliefs and interests. She describes an idealistic scene where a woman in a trapped situation flees with her lover, as it reflects her own desires. This was a message that made the state of affairs clear to the doctor, without being a response in any direct, literal, or conventional sense. He only was left the question of the identity of the person to which her attentions are being drawn.
"You shouldn't have been there, Mrs. Pontellier," he said. "That was no place for you. Adele is full of whims at such times. There were a dozen women she might have had with her, unimpressionable women. I felt that it was cruel, cruel. You shouldn't have gone." (111) While walking home, the Doctor expresses his concern for Edna by telling Edna that she should not have been with Adele while Adele was giving birth. He claims that it was cruel of Adele to put Mrs. Pontellier in that setting because Adele wanted to remind Edna about her responsibilities as a mother.
"The trouble is," sighed the Doctor, grasping her meaning intuitively, "that youth is given up to illusions. It seems to be a provision of Nature; a decoy to secure mothers for the race. And Nature takes no account of moral consequences, of arbitrary conditions which we create, and which we feel obliged to maintain at any cost." (111) He states this warning to Edna by revealing his awareness of society's expectations. He claims that the illusions in society such as marriage and motherhood is a trap to enclose the domestic sphere. He claims that society is complied to maintain the status quo. He tells her that he understands her view but she need to forget her romantic affiliations with Robert and become a mother society expects her to be.
"Yes, I will blame you if you don't come and see me soon. We will talk of things you never have dreamt of talking about before. It will do us both good. I don't want you to blame yourself, whatever comes. Good night, my child." (112) He says this to Edna because he wants to help her. He wants to show that there is someone who is willing to listen to her problems. However, he claims that he will blame her if she doesn't come because he wants her to talk about her struggles so she could overcome what Nature is throwing at her. Although he is trying to force her to talk to him, he implies that she should not blame herself.