Suicide: The Final Surrender
What is suicide? Webster defines suicide as, “The act of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally” (1156). Throughout The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, the main character Edna Pontellier struggles vigorously to escape the shackles of society. With the final realization that she will never be entirely free, Edna takes her life. Some may view Edna’s death as her final victory as she breaks the restraints of society. However, considering Edna’s state of mind, suicide is not her victory but rather her surrender. Therefore, Edna Pontellier’s death is suicide.
Depression causes suicide. Mental anguish gives rise to erratic, impulsive behavior. The first incident in which Edna's torment is illustrated occurs when she returns from checking on her child whom Leonce, her husband, suspects feverish. Wandering outside, Edna observes, “The tears came so fast to Mrs. Pontellier's eyes that the damp sleeve of her peignoir no longer served to dry them…. Turning, she thrust her face, steaming and wet, into the bend of her arm, and went on crying there, not caring any longer to dry her face, her eyes, her arms. She could not have told why she was crying" (654). In this passage,
This is yet another example of Edna"tms mind slipping away from reality into a realm of unstable delusions and depressions. Edna undergoes bewildering fits of rage and violence, as she succumbs to her deteriorating mental health: She was seeking herself and finding herself in such sweet, half-darkness which met her moods. Despondent, Edna surrenders to her depression and plunges into the fateful ocean. With the final insight that even Robert will fade from her memories and she will be left alone, Edna completely loses what little is left of her mind (731). He wonders, "If his wife were not growing a little unbalanced mentally. "tm If she could but get that conviction firmly fixed in her mind, what mattered about the rest (723)However, after Robert"tms final exit from Edna"tms life, she gives into her depression and becomes dead to the world. When Robert, Edna"tms true love, leaves her the first time, Edna recollects that losing Robert is like losing her reason for "existence" (683). The individual sees no more value in her life. Edna describes her fits of anger as a dark "shadow", coming from places unknown to her, imprisoning her mind and body with great suffering (654). Not only does she submit to the seductions of a well-known lady"tms man, Alecee, Edna divulges, "Alecee Arobin was absolutely nothing to her" (705). Edna could see before her no denial-only the promise of excessive joy. The warning signs are there, what a shame that even Doctor Mandelet suggests, "It (her depression) will pass happily over, especially if you leave her alone" (697). Once she stopped, and taking off her wedding ring, flung it upon the carpet. They jeered and sounded mournful notes with out promise, devoid even of hope. Edna recalls "(She) walks down to the beach rather mechanically, not noticing anything special except that the sun was hot.