The ending of The Awakening is a conglomeration of all the events of the book. Ednas suicide stems from her botched transcendence and subsequent fall. Chopin uses ambiguity in the last passage to allow the reader to explore their own meaning of the book and not force one into thinking the same as another reader.
Chopin portrays the ending in a multitude of ways both religiously and earthly. The religious aspects of her suicide begin on page 189. Throughout the story Ednas awakening has been portrayed as some sort of transcendence. It starts with Reisz checked to see if her wings were strong enough then later it mentions it again when Edna spread her arms at the dinner. Chopin uses these to show us that Edna is becoming an angel. On page 189 she calls her children little antagonists that wish to drag her into the souls slavery; these lines make the children seem like spawns of Satan that wish to drag Edna into hell for eternal suffering. Next it reads The foamy wavelets curled up to her white feet and coiled like serpents . This line has two religious implications in it. Firstly the mention of her white feet and soon after white body further prove the angel theory, secondly the water coiling like serpents is like the devil coming to Edna like he did Eve and trying to get her to commit a horrible sin. The ocean is tempting Edna has been throughout the story because it symbolizes everything she wants but also is misleading her because she cant have what it offers. Just like what the devil did to Eve, he promised her that the forbidden fruit would give her sensations beyond her wildest beliefs but ended up getting her kicked out of Eden and punished humans for eternity. The ocean is like this to Edna because it promises freedom, which is exactly what she has been looking for, and it ends up being the death of a woman who already has a good amount of independence.
Chopin also makes Edna seem less than holy in this passage because after all, she is a woman and since her transformation stumbled and was never truly completed, she is stuck between a sacred figure and just another failure. Edna decides to kill herself on her way to beach because of her suffering and search for more and more freedom. The weather amplifies the feeling of pain and hopelessness, the sun is hot and the water seems like the perfect relief to get away from everything. Ednas awakening has failed but she remains ignorant to the fact and now, in her mind, to complete the awakening she must kill herself. Chopin then uses a blatant symbol of a bird to show that killing yourself is not the way its done. A bird with a broken wing was beating the air above, reeling, fluttering, circling disabled down, down to the water. This sentence is an obvious remark to what Edna is doing now and follows what happened earlier in the story with the strong wings. Edna received her broken wing from all of her misdoings during the awakening, like becoming intimate with Alcee, visiting her children, and going to see Ratignolle when she was sick. Ratignolle is a huge part of the suicide because she is society and therefore an antagonist to Edna. Adele is everything a Victorian woman should be and Edna is a lost soul who is trying to transcend the social laws of the 1800s. Ratignolle makes Edna first think about committing suicide when she says think of the children. That line reminds Edna of how she said she would give up the unessential. Ratignolle isnt the only thing that led to this act. When Edna is swimming out to ocean she remembers about other events that may have pushed her towards this. She recalls Leonce and the children, whose selfish and insincere ways towards her have driven her away from them. It also was a rocky relationship from the start considering she never wanted any of it. She thinks of Reisz who guided her path throughout the awakening and Edna tries to think what she would say if she knew what was happening. Next she thinks of Robert whose indifference towards the end of the novel ultimately convinced Edna that she was bound to be alone for the rest of her life. Lastly Edna recalls her childhood and everything that came with it. She recalls her sister that she lost contact with, and her father who acted friendly to Edna but they truly had unsolvable differences under the faade. The exhaustion Edna feels from her swim makes her hallucinate like she is actually back in her childhood, its brings up the question if this all actually happened or does the entire story happen In the dream of a young girl who only wants to live her own life.