travels to Grand Isle on the pretense that she wants to rest there.
Walking on the beach, she meets Victor and Mariequita, a pretty
young Spanish girl, who delights in flirting with the men who holiday
there. The pair is surprised to see Edna during the off-season.
She arranges to lunch with them later.
beach is empty and all she sees is a bird with a broken wing attempting
to fly. She decides to undress and stands naked as the sea laps
around her feet. She finds her bathing suit still hanging on its
peg near the water, puts it on and walks out into the water. She
begins to swim away from shore without any regrets having finally
found freedom. As exhaustion takes over, her last thoughts are memories
of her childhood and she succumbs to the ocean.
scene was foreshadowed back in Chapter 6 where you will note the
quotation, "The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering,
clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in
abysses of solitude."
Edna's awakening has brought her solitude. No one in her immediate
circle understands her true feelings, and why she has broken away
from the bonds that have tied her down.
The reader may well ask, "Why commit suicide?" Like many good books,
the reader is left to draw his own conclusions. Was it an act of
cowardice or bravery? What was the motive?
Firstly, one has to decide whether Edna has achieved her goal of
independence and freedom. The answer is yes, even though it was
obtained through her death. She could not have remained alive and
enjoyed the freedom that Mlle. Reisz enjoys because she would always
have the bond with her children.
We note Ad'le's last words to Edna. She realizes that she would
always be the object of gossip and disdain, and this would have
harmed her children. This must therefore be considered as the main
motive for her suicide.
What Edna did not anticipate when she embarked on this road to freedom
was the solitude she would face at the end.
Robert, in some respects, was playing a part during the holiday
vacation on Grand Isle where the social niceties were less formal.
He is unable to break away from the tight New Orleans society and
be with Edna. He is in fact quite shocked at Edna's show of independence,
and we sense that he has some sympathy for L'once.
Although it is not made plain in the book whether he knows of the
affair between Edna and Arobin, he clearly has his suspicions. This
does not diminish his love for her, but it is not the same type
of passion that Edna has for him. He perhaps justifies his withdrawal
from his liaison with Edna with the fact that she is untrustworthy
because of her growing independence. This too is another factor
in Edna's suicide.
Robert is unable to go that last furlong and share a life of romance
The book began with bird imagery and concludes with a similar reference
to birds, "A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above,
reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water."
You will recall Mlle. Reisz suggesting that the bird that tries
to fly above the broad plain of convention must have strong wings.
We now see that Edna does not have strong enough wings to escape
the cage wherein her soul is trapped and her only freedom lies in