Edna’s materialistic husband remains in the dark throughout the novel: He does not perceive her obsession with Robert Lebrun or dissatisfaction with himself, and fails to grasp that she has left him when she rents her own house and moves out of his mansion. His intense focus on his business blinds him to the emotional process of growth and self-realization that his wife is undergoing. He considers his wife more of a possession or an employee than a person, and treats her accordingly.
When she performs the highly controversial act of abandoning her reception day because she does not feel like entertaining visitors, his reaction is based entirely on how her actions will affect his business prospects. His goals are strictly financial and superficial; he wants to “keep up with the procession” that is the upper-class life.
Leonce feels that he can buy favor with money, replacing kindness or sensitivity toward his wife with elaborate gifts. To Leonce’s credit, he assiduously follows Dr. Mandelet’s advice to give Edna free rein with her whims, even though her behavior disturbs him greatly. But he is still no match for the increasingly individualistic Edna. His ideal wife is a mother-woman such as Madame Ratignolle, a role that Edna can no longer bring herself to play.