Robert has a romantic image of himself that is not supported by his actions or behavior. When he tells Edna about the Gulf ghost who returns to the coast every year waiting for a woman to wins his heart, he is implicitly talking about himself. Every summer Robert leaves his modest job in New Orleans to live with his mother at the pension, and courts a different woman each summer. His attentions are never serious, however; he targets married or older women who cannot truly respond to his mock courting. As insubstantial as a ghost, he lacks the emotional maturity to pursue or consummate an actual relationship with an eligible woman.
Two years younger than Edna, his youth and inexperience show themselves in his tendency to state grand intentions but not follow through on them, such as his legendary determination to go to Mexico to make his fortune. When he finds that he has become thoroughly infatuated with Edna, he is motivated by fear of true involvement to actually make the trip to Mexico but returns to New Orleans when the venture becomes too much work.
Yet he is charming and charismatic: “There was not one but was ready to follow when he led the way.” His manner appeals to Edna’s love of sensuality and desire for imaginative living, and he treats her with great chivalry.
Ultimately, however, he can only play-act the role of husband or lover. Robert does not have a brave, defiant soul, as does Edna. Although enthralled by her newly acquired power of seduction, he is overwhelmed by her declaration that “we shall love each other . . . Nothing else in the world is of any consequence,” and is gone when she returns from Madame Ratignolle’s, unable yet again to follow through, or to face the personal and social consequences should they consummate their love.