A few thoughts about suicide in the Awakening

When my English teacher threw down a book in front of me a week before the class ended, I was skeptical. I didn’t think I would like the book and I certainly didn’t want to read another long, boring literary classic. What I found in The Awakening by Kate Chopin was not what I expected.

The Awakening follows Edna Pontellier as she “awakens” to find herself living an unhappy life. After spending the summer with Robert Lebrun, Edna finds herself wishing to be youthful and independent. When she returns to New Orleans, she is no longer the same person. She finds herself going against her social responsibilities and becoming a free spirit.

Eventually her summer lover, Robert, returns to New Orleans. Edna confesses her desire to turn her back on her husband for Robert, however Robert is unable to commit to having an affair. Edna is summoned to help with her friend’s birth, only to return to find Robert gone with a note saying he is sorry but they can’t be together. Edna, deeply depressed and guilt ridden, returns to her summer home on the Grand Isle.

While on the Isle, Edna decides to go for swim. Feeling alone and hopeless for a life she know she will never be able to have, she hands her life over to the ocean.

Upon finishing the book, my English teacher asked what we thought of the ending. One person spoke up and said they thought Edna’s choice to commit suicide was selfish.

That comment stirred something inside of me. I used to think suicide was selfish too. After being depressed for so long and honestly contemplating suicide in some of my worst moments, I don’t think suicide is selfish anymore. It may be easier than trying to work through overwhelming amounts of pain, but you can’t call someone brave enough to pull the trigger a coward.

Suicide makes sense to me when I think about the amount of pain and depression a person must be experiencing to seek out suicide. I mean, I never went past cutting but it took an awful lot of depression for me to get to the point where I was cutting every other day just to make it through what otherwise felt like hell.

I’m not condoning suicide. There is never a time when it’s the best option or the right choice. I think getting professional help even if that means hospitalization is better than committing suicide and I think most suicide survivors would agree with me that living is worth it.

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