"It sometimes entered Mr. Pontillier's mind to wonder if his wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. He could see plainly that she was not herself. That is, he could not see that she was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world."(p. 79)
"What have you been doing to her, Pontillier"
"Has she," asked the Doctor, with a smile, "has she been associating of late with a circle of pseudo-intellectual women-super-spiritual superior beings My wife has been telling me about them."(p. 91)
"Authority, coercion are what is needed. Put your foot down good and hard; the only way to manage a wife." (p. 99)
"Conditions would someway adjust themselves, she felt; but whatever came, she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself." (p. 110)
These quotes sum up for me the difficulty Edna faced as she became herself, or discovered herself. The book is her journey, inward and then outward as well, to finding who she is and how she wants to be. I love the image of 'daily casting aside' her old self like a 'garment.' Of course, the trouble was that her husband and the men around him all thought that she was losing her mind. The Doctor even accuses the husband of being too lenient. Blame is directed not only at the husband, but also at other women, unnamed 'pseudo-intellectual' women. These men cannot understand or explain Edna's behavior or change in attitude. At this time, and even now, women struggle to gain independence from the role of wife and mother. Trying to figure out where the self is within the confines of those roles, and how to manage the three successfully is still difficult. The last quote is so strong, Edna finally recognizing that she owns herself, that she is not property-not just someone's wife, mother or even lover or friend-she is her own person and she grows stronger, finding her resolve. This resolve is what leads her to her final decision, becoming absolutely her own person to the exclusion of any other role. The end is somewhat disturbing, though poetic. The struggle between Edna and her environment, her time and those around her-her inner struggles-all seem to lead her to that final point of no return.