An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish.
In Chapter 3, after being berated by Léonce for neglecting their children, Edna sits by herself and cries. As explained by the narrator, although Edna is upset with her husband, she acknowledges that he is a kind, devoted man and she does not understand the cause of her tears. Rather, an unspecified feeling of malaise and despondency overtakes her. This sadness with no name reflects Edna being stuck in narrowly defined roles that lead to her inability to realize her own personhood. Such a mood will revisit Edna throughout the book, often without Edna understanding why, revealing her depressed state of mind.
There were days when she was unhappy; she did not know why—when it did not seem worth while to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead; …
As Edna begins to shirk her responsibilities as the lady of the house and focus more on her own self-fulfillment and self-realization, she vacillates between great happiness and great despair. Her mood shifts reflect those of a depressed person who still cares enough to struggle to find her way to a better place. This truth is evident in Edna’s frequent visits to Mademoiselle Reisz’s apartment when she experiences these dark moods. Edna continues to seek to emerge from the darkness and live and prosper, until she realizes New Orleans offers her no place as an independent woman.
Despondency had come upon her in the wakeful night, and had never lifted. There was no one thing in the world that she desired.
In this quote from the book’s final chapter, the narrator reveals that Edna finally succumbs and gives up her struggle to carve out a place for herself as an independent being. Over a period of several months, she had attempted to realize her own essential self despite the shackles put on her behavior by her environment. Now, however, her experience with Robert shows her that neither Robert nor society will ever accept an awakened woman. Knowing no future exists for her, Edna gives up and commits suicide.