Why did Edna commit suicide at the end of the story?
The question of Edna's suicide is a subject of wide debate among critics.
Edna struggled with the role of wife and mother. The constrictions placed on her left her unhappy. While it could be argued that she loved her children, she was not truly involved with them. Her decision to leave, in some part, is that she believes they are better off without her.
It can be seen that her choice to commit suicide is her only measure of control left to her. Her ideas of freedom and a new and exciting life do not go as planned. The passion and sexual freedom she was seeking do not meet up to her expectations. She still pines for what she does not have, which is Robert. Her dreams of being an artist are cut short with the realization that she does not posses much talent in that area.
Edna's failure to create a new life are shattering to her. While she left the constraints of the role of wife and mother, society still controls much of her life and what she could accomplish. It was not an option to her, to try and return back to the life she had with her husband and children. Suicide was the only option that she had full control over, and she took it.
I first read The Awakening in 1978. I did not understand Edna's dilemma until 2000 through my own experience.
Edna had found true love with Robert and a sexual intensity that she could never find again. The depth of true love MUST be a part of our sexual experience to truly satisfy. Trying to recapture that experience through sexual gratification alone was impossible for her. It had driven her so strongly that she gave up her children to search for it. This goes against all social expectations even today! When JUST the sexual experience did not bring the depth of her relationship she had experienced with Robert, it deeply grieved her to the point where she could not go back and could not go forward!
All she could think of during her lifetime was Robert. It's called 'dieing from a broken heart'(wing)!