In Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening,” the character of Robert Lebrun is one that is difficult for the audience to warm up toand feel for. Throughout the novel, Robert literally comes and goes, making himself known for only a short amount of time before taking off again, and only to show up again sometime later. His character is as random and unsettled as his many affairs with the different women at the lodge. It is his personality type, and his coming and going throughout the novel, that makes it difficult for readers to attach themselves to him. Very little opportunity is given to fully solidify Robert’s character, though we are allowed glimpses into his life.
One such possibility that has been proposed as to why Robert was such a flouncy character is that he was a homosexual, or not nearly as masculine as he could have been or as much as the other male characters were. While Robert had many flirtatious encounters with women during the novel, he never physically acted on anything. However, while he still did not do anything physical with Edna, he got closer to her than he had with any of the other women he doted upon. This could be due to fact that Edna was more open-minded and accepting of his friendship, despite any large flaws.
As the story progresses, Robert becomes more infatuated with Edna, though he soon realizes the differences between his daydreams and reality and decides to call things off. Upon returning from New Orleans, Robert ignores the pleas and notions that Edna has made regarding freedom and leaves her a note of farewell. Though it is made clear that Robert does not agree with what he is doing – attempting to take someone else’s wife and make her his own – it is never made obvious what Robert’s underlying motive was, which is most likely where the homosexual assumption came from. If he is unsure of himself, then Robert would be unsure with everything that he was involving himself with.
As a reader, it is difficult to become attached to a character that is unsure of their own intentions. It is as hard to grasp that character as it is for them to grasp themselves. Robert being unsure of what he wanted makes the reader just as equally unsure; the character does not know what they want or what they are doing, so the reader reacts in the same way, only wanting the comfort of the character. Roberts flirts shamelessly with many women during the novel, but becomes serious the more time he spends with Edna. He argues with himself over the decision to beg her husband to release her so that he may make her his wife. Eventually, he decides against it, which makes the audience wonder what is really going on in his head. He has the chance to make himself and someone else happy, yet he is put into doubt by something that is not spoken and made clear.
If Robert were to be a homosexual, his mere flirtations with girls would make sense, as he never wanted to further his relationships due to his own beliefs and lifestyle. Even with Edna, though he got along further than he had in previous flings, he still ended it due to unsure feelings. He seemed to only want to remain friends with the women that he became close to, the women whose hearts he won over and over – behavior that can be typical of a homosexual man. Robert wanted that male/female bond to hide what was really going on. This is also made evident in the scene in which Robert goes to Mexico after deciding his feelings for Edna were too deep. Perhaps his leave was because he felt ashamed about being untrue to himself and he did not want to act on his unsettled feelings for Edna.