The day after the kiss, Edna hurries to gather her things to move out of the house she shares with Leonce into the “pigeon house” she has rented, so called because of its small size. Arobin arrives and helps with the preparations, then Edna sends him away, insisting that he wait to see her until the next day’s dinner party.
After Edna has kissed Arobin, she feels a greater impetus to remove herself from the surroundings provided and dominated by Leonce. She feverishly packs, like “one who has entered . . . some forbidden temple in which a thousand muffled voices bade her begone.” The reference to a temple invokes the image of a church, and recalls the morning after her desire first stirred for Robert, when she could not sit through the church service but had to flee the church’s oppressive air. Further, by ostensibly leaving Leonce, she is disregarding her marriage vows, not a course of action taken lightly by the Catholic church under whose auspices she was married. Those “thousand muffled voices” she hears are the voices of disapproval raised in her culture when a woman declares her independence or desire for freedom.
Yet Edna is in earnest about her bid for freedom, taking from the house only those things she had acquired herself. She is at her apex of caprice and self-indulgence, taking “no moment of deliberation between the thought and its fulfillment,” a non-contemplative state that allows no moment to consider the consequences of her move or of last night’s kiss.
Although she is reluctant to look Arobin in the eye and avoids being alone in a room with him, she clearly does not regret the physical contact with him. Insisting that he wait until tomorrow’s dinner party to see her again, she “looked at him with eyes that at once gave him courage to wait and made it torture to wait.” Her sexual awakening is accelerated along with her move.
Significantly, however, she is still in effect a caged bird (recall the parrot symbolism of Chapter 1). While escaping the gilded cage that is Leonce’s house, she is moving into a pigeon house, which is a small birdhouse meant for keeping domesticated pigeons. Although the pigeon house will allow her more latitude to come and go as she pleases, still she is domesticated, limited by other restraints such as those society places on women and Robert’s concession to those expectations.
pigeon house small bird house for domesticated pigeons.
coup d’etat the sudden, forcible overthrow of a ruler or government, sometimes with violence, by a small group of people already having some political or military authority.
cravat a necktie.
plumb perfectly vertical; straight down.