The Awakening


Suicide in The Awakening

What is suicide? "(Suicide is) the act of self-destruction by a person sound in mind and capable of measuring his (or her) moral responsibility" (Webster 1705). "No one really knows why human beings
commit suicide. Indeed, the very person who takes his (or her) own life may be least aware at the moment of decision of the essence of his (or her) reasons and emotions for doing so. At the outset, it can be said that a dozen individuals can kill themselves and "do" (or commit) 12 psychologically different deeds" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 385). Suicide is written about in a variety of novels, short stories, and movies. Suicide moves like an undercurrent in the sea of themes of The Awakening. The possibility of suicide and even the idea of death darkens the story, making Edna's emotional ups and downs dangerous - her occasional misery leads her to subconsciously think of suicide. She holds the hopelessness at bay by moving out and
getting her own apartment, while trying to find a man who will accept her, but in the end she succumbs.
Edna's closest physical brush with death occurs one night at the beach, when the summer residents decide to take a midnight swim. Despite having had a hard time learning to swim, she realizes her ability and swims farther out than she ever had before. She overestimates her power and almost doesn't make it back. She has a "quick vision of death". The experience scares her, but she has tested her limits and survived the sea for a while. Metaphorically, she has come close to death but resisted it.
Falling asleep can be associated with the idea of death as well. Whenever Edna falls asleep, it is noted in the story; across the bay at church and the first night once her husband has left are examples. Each time there is a suggestion of drifting off to sleep and never waking up. When she is across the bay, once she wakes up, she likens her nap to a hundred years' sleep. However, each time Edna does awaken; it is only at the very end when she finally drifts away. She could have chosen sleeping pills as her method of death, but she returns to the beach because of its memories of the summer, and the men in her life. Her near-death experience in the summer left an impression on her that influences her choice of escape from life.
Throughout the story, Edna struggles to free herself. Leonce Pontellier tries to hold Edna down, wanting her to be a mother and a housewife, when she knows she is not like that. Her husband's oppression forces her to break free. This time, she escapes and begins life on her own, to succeed at first. Then she meets Alece Arobin. He is a disreputable man-about-town who draws Edna out to the horse races. For a moment, he brings her away from the precipice of suicide. His attentiveness attracts her, but in the end she realizes that he means little to her.
Eventually she sees Robert again. Having left her husband, she hopes to start a fresh new life with Robert. Edna reminds him, that it was he who awoke her last summer out of a life-long ,stupid dream; however, Robert only leaves her a note that reads, "I love you. Good-by - because I love you." (Chopin, 695). He does not understand what she needs either. She realizes, during the long sleepless night that follows, that eventually she will forget her love for even Robert.
That night she thinks about the forces that have tried to hold her down. She thinks of ". . . Leonce and of the children." (Chopin, 698); they sought to drag her into the soul's slavery for the rest of her days. Finally, she realizes that her only escape is suicide. All her life, she has known people who try to hold her down; she will forget them and meet others. This is her surrender to a tradition and a society that is too powerful. She has flirted with suicide throughout the novel; in the end she ". . . looked into the distance . . . heard her father's voice and her sister Maragret's" (Chopin, 698), and then she was gone.

 
Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. "The Awakening." Literature: Thinking, Reading, & Writing