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Kate Chopin'sThe Awakeningends with Edna Pontellier's suicide after a long period of self-realization. This self-realization leads her to conclude that life, as she has come to know it, does not fit her mindset any longer. Additionally, she also realizes that society's expectations of her do not correspond to the way in which she views herself, as a member of it.

Rather than spending the rest of her life in the droll boredom of a loveless marriage, and sacrificing herself under a frail instinct for motherhood, she takes the initiative of exploring her true emotions. To her disadvantage, these emotions can only be explored by leaving behind her duties as a wife and mother: by engaging in a love affair, and by removing herself physically and mentally from her family's company.

She had said over and over to herself: “To-day it is Arobin; to-morrow it will be some one else. It makes no difference to me, it doesn't matter about Léonce Pontellier—but Raoul and Etienne!” She understood now clearly what she had meant long ago when she said to Adéle Ratignolle that she would give up the unessential, but she would never sacrifice herself for her children.

However, as we learn more about Edna's inner conflicts, we realize that, perhaps, there is no other solution for her, but death. The reason for this is simple: life no longer fits her. She has experienced the emotions that she has always been curious about, yet, the emptiness in her life has carved a hole so deep that nothing can really replenish it.

Perhaps, she chose to get to know herself too late in life. Or perhaps, her nature is merely to want and never be satisfied. That part of Edna will remain a riddle. Yet, we can rest assured that Edna does want a change; one that she can neither get, nor even visualize. Hence, as she continues to configure who she really is, one thing that she completely decides upon is that nothing will really ever "do".

Despondency had come upon her [...]and had never lifted. There was no one thing in the world that she desired. There was no human being whom she wanted near her except Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone.

With this quote we realize that there is no solution for her anymore. Edna has officially given up; for she has completely forfeited the future, considering that she will not be in charge of it. The best way to explain this is when the novel reads

She thought of Léonce and the children. They were a part of her life. But they need not have thought that they could possess her, body and soul.

This statement completely re-emphasizes the fact that Edna has become someone else, completely possessed by a sense of self-sufficiency but disfranchised by society; she is someone who desperately needs to re-do everything over, in order to meet herself again. Since this is something that cannot be done, there is no other choice but to end it all, and to return to "the beginning". This is why she, symbolically, gives herself back to nature by swimming away until she loses all her strength, and drowns. This is a baptismal echo of a re-birth.

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Why does Edna commit suicide at the end of the book?

Throughout The Awakening, as the title suggests, protagonist Edna Pontellier slowly realizes that she is not content with her situation in life. Edna is an upper-class white woman living in New Orleans just before the turn of the twentieth century. As such, there are expectations and norms for her behavior. She should be the ideal Victorian housewife, devoting her life to her husband and children. Before the pivotal summer at Grand Isle with which the novella opens, Edna moves through her life unquestioning of the social expectations that govern her existence. However, the combination of the sea, Mademoiselle Reisz's enchanting piano music, and her close friendship with Robert Lebrun results in Edna's awakening: she wants more from her life than society will allow her.

Edna's dissatisfaction with her marriage grows in Grand Isle, as we see her husband chide and criticize her about her care of their children. However, it seems that the problem isn't exactly with Leonce Pontellier (as most characters recognize that he is a "good husband") but with the institution of marriage itself. The relationship comes with a set of expectations, even rules, for husband and for wife. Edna realizes that she is not happy being secondary to her husband and that she wants to pursue interests of her own, beyond those that center around the home or around her children. By the time they return to New Orleans, Edna is ready to abandon the social norms altogether. She refuses to stay home for the hours when other socialites are scheduled to call on her, and she even takes up a small house of her own, separate from her husband's. In contrast to the ideal "mother-woman," her friend Adele Ratignolle, Edna will never fulfill the high expectations set upon her. When Adele goes into labor near the end of the novel, Edna tells the doctor that she could never give up herself for her children, and she distinguishes between her "life" and her "self." Her essential self cannot be compromised, but she will give up her mortal life for what she sees as the good of her children. Her actions may bring disdain upon her family should she continue to attempt to be her true self in a society that only aims to hold that self back. Believing that she can never mold her individuality to meet the society's expectations of her, Edna drowns herself in the Gulf of Mexico.

Though some readers see her choice as a result of the end of her relationship with Robert (who wants to marry her, not realizing what her awakening is truly about), Edna's motivations go deeper than her preference of one man over another. Edna's decision can be seen as cowardly or brave, but regardless of how a reader judges Edna, it is clear that her awakening and her death are a result of a number of complex factors; by the end of the novella, Edna has fundamentally changed and sees her new self, her true self, as out of step with the world around her.

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Why does Edna commit suicide at the end of the book?

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.

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