The ending of Revolutionary Road: Suicide or accident?

I’m adding a plea here since this is easily the post most often read. Please read on!

Well, my journey towards my first goal is all but over; having handed in my thesis in February and had my Viva in May (in the UK everyone has to have a Viva), and having passed, I will graduate in July.

So that’s that. A chapter of a life complete and I do feel a sense of achievement though inevitably I wish I could have done it better – fewer split infinitives for one thing! Now, what you may well ask: perhaps I will try to turn it into a book. There should be interest bearing in mind schools and universities are teaching Yates.

This is where you come in. If you are a student (or a teacher) and have been dropping in on my blog, could you let me know what your school is (wherever it is): the name, the place and what you have been studying in the way of Yates. If I need proof he is being taught the more of you that do that the more proof I will have. I won’t publish your responses unless you want me to. I know DeWitt Henry has been teaching Yates at Emerson College in Boston and I know he is being taught at Ipswich School in the UK and at Sherborne School also in the UK but you will agree that that is hardly proof of anything. So please get back to me!

So how do we read the ending of Revolutionary Road? Yes, powerful, tragic, bold and uncompromising but what happens? Does April set out to abort their unwanted child knowing it will kill her or does she do it hoping it won’t? Yates seems to offer both possibilities side by side. I’ve already debated this briefly over email with Blake Bailey who comes down firmly on the side of a tragic accident but I veer towards reading this as suicide. She knew the date for a ‘safe’ termination was well past. She heard him rip into their marriage the night before. She had faced the hollowness of their union and laughed in his face. She sat up all night writing what seem to be ‘farewell’ letters to him while he drunkenly slept on. She prepares a farewell breakfast (or is it invested with the hope that a new beginning is about to start? – I don’t think so) and she takes a poignant interest in his dull job to throw him completely off the scent. But then, of course, there are her phone calls…why be so very upset when calling Milly if she didn’t think she was going to die? I know I sound hard-hearted but was an impending abortion traumatic enough to justify this degree of distress? Maybe. And yet we have Yates’s objective correlative to help position us here: ‘The cigarette broke and shredded in her fingers’. Is the sound of children playing so distressing because she knows she will never see hers again or is it that she just fears she won’t?

Then, after she has injected herself, why make that call for an ambulance? We have to presume it was her call – there was no one else there. Mendes/Haythe shows her calling; Yates doesn’t. Mendes, then, makes that decision clear; she is calling for help and wants to survive. Yates takes us in both directions at once but to my mind she intends to die even though her final, short note to Frank, ‘whatever happens’, suggests that she still intends to live….Frank, however, is certain it was a deliberate act – ‘She did it to herself, Shep. She killed herself.’

Your thoughts would help but I suspect Yates intended that we could never decide.


62 Responses to “The ending of Revolutionary Road: Suicide or accident?”

  1. My own take is that April was determined not to have the baby and knew the risk. She was willing to risk both death and life, I think. Of course, who would she have been if she had lived?

  2. The writer must trust his reader, a truism, and that requires some common sense on the part of the reader. What Yates characters are suicidal? The protagonist is always his own worst enemy–s/he smokes and drinks and makes ill-considered decisions and doesn’t take care of self, but suicidal? No. They’re losers and unlucky, unintentionally self-destructive. Not to mention, who does herself in by botched abortion? It’s a grotesque, misogynistic thought, and would be the stupidest of plans–just as likely to fail as not. Yates was a subtle, elegant writer–he deserves the same qualities in his readers.

  3. kateonyates Says:

    Well that’s told me!

    Yes, she was willing to risk life and death, as DeWitt says, and as you say, Alice, it would be the stupidest of plans. However, while I agree with what you write here, Yates muddies the waters somewhat by creating narrative signposts that it will all go badly wrong. Surely the careful reader picks up on those and then is not sure what to do with them once she dies? That’s where my questioning came from – not from the logic you impose of how women act and how marriages fail but from the narrative treatment, that slow crescendo towards doom he so brilliantly creates. I suppose he wants us to know she could never have succeeded but she was willing to take that risk. What else could she do? As DeWitt says, who would she have been had she lived? It really would have been a Martha and George situation.

    There is a similar ambiguity at the end of The Easter Parade when Emily enters her nephew’s house. Many people see this as a gentle form of redemption as she accepts, finally, the love and support of family and, by implication, Christianity. I don’t agree with this and feel Yates makes it as clear as he can without stating anything directly that she capitulates because she has no choice. Emily Grimes would not have accepted easy facile solutions. She is aware though that she has no options and the tragedy of Yates’s characters is that they often battle for ‘truth’ until all options run out. April’s options run out so she has to take this horrendous risk.

  4. Interesting. Great idea for a post. No clear right answer, but lots of different perspectives and opinions.

    I’m going to have to lean toward suicide, and I think that all of the points about reservations and “unintentionally self-destructive,” as Alice mentions, work against her rather forceful statement. That’s exactly the kind of suicide that it is, a half-measure, intentional unintentional self-destruction. Or ask the question my way: how does a practitioner of self-deception commit suicide. They act and pretend that it might not happen as they do it, they pretend they’re killing something else (the fetus) so that they’re not really killing themselves. And thus, as DHenry points out, April becomes collateral damage in her abortion attempt.

    And let’s remember that it’s very clearly a “self-abortion”–and what the hell is that? The thing that always had the most impact on me about this conclusion is what a stupid idea it was. It was never going to work and go smoothly even if she wasn’t past the all-important date. It’s as if April is acting out a dangerous wives’ tale, and thus the book both begins and ends with a performance. Yates was playing on the furtive and illegal status of abortion at the time, which must have seemed insane, dangerous, and oppressive, and he plugged a permutation on that into his story, where it all fits so well. In a way he’s substituting this for Anna Karenina throwing herself on the train tracks. He’s reveling in this very discussion, in the ambiguity of the action. But the key element is April’s despair. That’s all that matters, and it builds through the story and shows her intent at the end. Yates–and his character April–was aware of other ways to abort the baby, but the specific choice, which included isolation and the impossibility of getting help, shows the clear intention. It’s exactly what Alice says it is, unintentional self-destruction. Hey, it could have worked, right? And April could have been magnificent and transcendent in the play too. And they could have happy together in Paris. Except those were just dreams.

    No, I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I’m curious about the statements here about how this complex and fascinating question is handled. And I’ll also mention that it you put “the ending of Revolutionary Road” in the subject heading you might have some more of the many people willing to discuss this issue stumbling by the site.

  5. Apologies, first, for being unwittingly “forceful,” or harsh. I’ve been reading these books for decades–RR first, then each subsequent book as it was published, loving them and lingering over them and when I talked about them, it wasn’t in that “literary handshake” way one reads about, but rather I was always amazed and affirmed to find a similar sensibility–and am just awfully pleased there’s hope Yates will finally get the attention he deserves. I’m glad there are people like you giving the work serious consideration. And if I sounded harsh, it’s because I want people to get it right and not over-think and, as so often happens in that case, under-understand (not you, Kate, but you’re in an academic setting, you know it happens). Your illustration of people viewing the last scene in “The Easter Parade” as any kind of redemption or embrace of family or Christianity is such an instance. Redemption in Yates? Salvation via family or any means other than the temporary alcoholic blackouts? The utterances of Christianity viewed as anything other than a kind of nutty refrain–“Save me, man…” in the Bellvue section of “Disturbing The Peace.” Emily Grimes, in “The Easter Parade,” says: “…do you know a funny thing? I’m almost fifty years old and I’ve never understood anything in my whole life.” And with that realization, she lets herself be ushered, understanding nothing new, into her nephew’s home. Utterly bleak.

    Okay, enough. The work is in the hands of a new generation and that’s a fine thing. I’ve read over your posts and applaud you, Kate and others, for this magnificent obsession.

  6. kateonyates Says:

    Wow! Alice that is wonderful….thank you. Through Yates I ‘met’ zhiv (have a look at his writings on Yates at – really good and fresh to the subject which provides new insights and brave assertions, plus he is American, and I’m not, and has an ability to make links that I struggle to make). Now a new friend joins us for direct and honest discussion – just as it should be and forceful is fine. We are discussing Yates after all. So you didn’t need to apologize although I am mighty sensitive!

    Can I ask, what put you onto Yates since you are obviously a seasoned reader and have guarded his work for many years? I can only claim about five years of obsession. Did you know him? Were you taught by him?

  7. Shahid Abro Says:

    She cries before doing pumping for abortion. So does the neighbour with whom she had sex in car. She aborted or killed herself (also) because she had sex with the other guy while bearing the baby she ejected along with her life out of herself. She was in a way reversing everything….

  8. My feelings after watching the film are that April has chosen to stay trapped in the gilded cage of marriage on her own unbending terms! The child must die alongside the dream of escape!
    She is aborting her dreams of Paris, accepting her rooted fate of a conventional existence. The price she pays is the ultimate – her own head. Her choice however was to live as only she could.

  9. The last breakfast. It starts there. The way April speaks.. seeming real to frank.. yet, from 3rd person point of view one can make out it is fake(don’t get me wrong on).. Frank can’t because, he hopes against the thing he doesn’t want it to turn out to be..anyone in such a situation does.. But April, she has no way out..or at least she thinks so.. So she consoles herself telling herself what is real yet not being able to agree with it.. In other words she futilely tries her best to say what she needs to, at the same time never finding the conviction needed in it..(Just like one cant convince himself/herself that a really red scarf is green in color, no matter how much he/she says it is..) & she even looks for that last ray of hope(she assumes it is the last one)..& when frank leaves without realising what her actual state of mind is, that last ray dies too… It is a situation of conflict with oneself & his/her thoughts where it is more required to think than to act… She chooses the latter..& in conflict, seldom is either way the right way..So action then & there is seldom desirable…
    So even she herself can’t tell if it is a suicide or an accident…though most of our interpretations would be inclined either way because of the very same reason…

    & Yes, she gives up too fast..
    People don’t live on thinking that if they’re sure nothing’s gonna change, then it may not be worth living, though they can, knowing that they will, until they break, but at the same time convinced that they surely wont…It’s like living a paradox…
    People live on thinking that if there’s a way, irrespective of what the signs are, the way will come, someday… That’s what life’s about. I myself could challenge this statement I make..But little good will it do to the way I live…
    So justifying a certain way is not what it is about
    it is about which way it should go & is going, forever(always the present)…Hope at every corner.

  10. kateonyates Says:

    Thank you for this CDan. I agree with much of what you say except for one major thing. You say she futilely tries to say what she needs to – and I realise you don’t mean that in the literal sense – but where do you find that attempt? I can’t see it. She wears a maternity dress to signal acceptance of her pregnant state although admittedly it’s not the first time she’s worn it. Surely the reason Frank thinks that ‘No morning after a fight had been as easy as this’ is because that is exactly what she wants him to think. She is signalling compliance and acceptance with her shy smile; we know neither is true but she doesn’t want him to know because she wants to prevent inquiry. Her interest in his working day is a manifestation of that – placing the emphasis anywhere but on them. It is her politeness that is so devastating for us in the sense that we appreciate the restraint and the inner turmoil it conceals.

  11. Thank you for the reply kate.. Yup I don’t mean it in the literal sense.
    & what you’ve justified in the reply surely confirms otherwise(abt the futility).
    But that is assuming April herself really wanted to act the way she does..She does act, we know that. But the debate that must’ve gone through her mind, is what i’m speculating on.. Let’s say she really wanted the morning to be good for them, she wanted a good life for frank n her, but she wasnt able to bring herself to do it.. It’s like what we’re made of & what we want.. Here what she’s made of overrides what she may have wanted.. Making that attempt of hers in the direction of what she wanted, futile.
    Though this may well have not been the case..But as a guy, I can’t help but hope that as a woman, April had lingered on the decision of trying to make it right..Maybe I’m just consoling myself by talking about that futility.. It makes me feel that maybe, what she did wasnt what she set out to do…

    & by the way the funny thing about debates is if either party speaks with conviction, thinking he/she is right, &
    he/she really is, it finally depends on how they make it sound.. On a lower plane the views may sound different but on a higher plane most of them merge & are derivatives of a basic truth.. Something which’s also expressed in one of jeff arch’s short stories, ‘the expert witness’…may of may not be the case here though..
    & yup, I use ‘may’ a lot of times in what I write…If only life were really(not just we thinking it is)more predictable…

  12. kateonyates Says:

    I’m still musing on all of this and want to contrast Frank’s conviction initially that, ‘She did it to herself, Shep. She killed herself.’ (p.320) with his later musing on the event as it might have happened. He imagines she hid the syringe because, ‘I didn’t want to have to answer a lot of dumb questions.’ (p.324) While the two comments, one articulated and one imagined don’t cancel each other out, it does suggest that Frank alters his first reaction and thinks that in the control and care she took over the procedure, she thought she would be around later….As with April’s visit to Frank’s bedside, Yates moves constantly between the ‘real’ and the imagined, ensuring we can never decide what actually happened. Idle obfuscation on his part? Or a deliberate and well-placed attempt to point up the instability of all claims to truth, whether in realist writing or any other form?

  13. April aborted the baby because she is selfish. It is that simple. Her death was an unintended consequence. How do I know this? Because she didn’t want her first baby. She never wanted to be pregnant, she never wanted this life. In the movie, she is rarely shown with her children. Her only concerns are with her own life, her own happiness. She wanted to go to Paris, not Frank. Sure Frank was excited at first, but then the realities of life smacked him in the face. He received a promotion (even if that wasn’t his intention) and he realized that his first obligation is to provide for his family. He let go of the Paris idea because it was the dream of a immature young man with no ties, no family. April never got past her immaturity and self-centeredness. April never grew up. April got what she deserved. For those who are overly sympathetic with April, I suspect you have never had children.

  14. I’m late to this discussion, but I just watched the movie and then read the book. One thing everyone is forgetting is that Frank told her about his affair the day before she chose to go ahead with the abortion. Sure, she acted calmly at the time, but nobody can take that kind of news easily. It is hardwired in our biology to react with rage… in this case, by refusing to carry his child, and why should she? No way did she commit suicide. She wanted to live, and to get away from her husband. Also, in your initial post, you state that Yates doesn’t make it clear if she called the ambulance, but he does… there was a tidy trail of blood drops leading to the telephone and back. She didn’t want to die. One last thought: immediately before the abortion comes the reverie about one of her dad’s rare visits when she was a child. I think she knows she is damaged and that she isn’t mother material, so she doesn’t want to inflict another child with a bad parent.

  15. I agree. The emotions were just so overwhelming it would be SO crazy to live through what happened, wow, who could deal with such an emotional circumstance. Kate Winslett is so emotional, she deserved the grammy oscar trophy she is great. there was emotional and poignant feelings in this film. I wouldn’t want to deal with the circumstances portrayed here. to conclude, I believe that it wasn’t suicide. That makes it a tragedy and is emotionally conveyed through the very film’s actors and the story it tells as a metaphor for life’s emotions.

  16. Cheryl, you’re not right. he was a borken man in the old life i could ever deal with those circumstances! that’s titanic emotions they rejoined each other after james cameron’s titanic movie there was some oscar grammie for that one. both very emotional plots and stories. leonardo and and kate winslet.

  17. April did not try to kill herself. She felt trapped and overwhelmed by a empty life. I do believe that she knew there were risks involved. That was why she phoned her children. I also think that she wasn’t trying so much to get rid of the baby, but to find a way to escape. I am sure that if Frank had decided to have the baby in Paris she would have been happy with that decision. The last morning when she makes Frank breakfast you can tell she is fighting an internal battle. On one hand she does love Frank and wants to be able to be happy with their life, but on the other hand she is begging him to give her a sign that there is hope and she is not alone. When he leaves for work she snaps. She realizes that she can not put on a brave face and live in the shell of her former self. I believe she also mourns the loss of her baby before she acts upon her decision. I do not believe that she could go through the pregnancy and have any sense of self left by the time it would have been born. This is why she aborts the baby. She was hoping that she would have the freedom to finally live, even if she wasn’t sure just how to accomplish that.

  18. I haven’t seen the movie but I wanted to see it. With this ending, I WON’T!!!!!! I hate the sad endings… It’s a pity because Kate is so good… Who wrote the ending??? Very bad idea…

  19. I havent read the book, but I watched the movie. I remember that the guy from the mental asylum told her that he feels most sorry for the baby and it had a strong effect on her. She didnt want it, especially coming into the environment that she was in now. So she did it knowing she might die, and I agree that she just took a risk knowing the consequences

  20. hey i just saw the movie ..very late . i think that april was always in this mental state of being superior and she faces the reality she gets crashed it haapens when we get to know that there is no santa clause ..but the situation got worse when she got to know about her husband’s affair with his collouge and that nothing was like she had planned and felt trapped …in neverlasting conventional setup..and wanted to free herself …it was an accident destined to her ..which she desparately wanted to happen to her..

  21. All very valid possibilities and very impressive insight….if she were a real person. Given this is a fictional character, we’re actually going to want to focus on how the author may want his readers to be affected to get a clue as to how the ending is meant to be taken. I think this whole thread would be satisfying to the author, that he was able to give his readers a level of control over his material. People feel a lack of closure when stories don’t end with 100% clarity…and I get that. But if you look at it a different way, it actually gives you as the reader a part in the story, you can decide for yourself how to interpret things. At least the author won’t have to worry about readers complaining of the book’s predictability. My personal take on the story is that since it is told from the perspective of Frank, you know only slightly more than he does…you are left feeling empty (ironic since living an EMPTY life was a big deal in the story) and unsatisfied that you will never know exactly what the hell was going on in her head. I think the author intended us to connect with Frank in the end, not April. So the author leaves us with a similar sense of frustration as Frank felt. I also think that is why the ending had an obvious leaning towards her possibly knowing she would not live through the abortion. It was made clear that Frank felt like she did it on purpose knowing she would die.

  22. screamingmantis Says:

    *Movie spoiler* If its okay, I really want to bring up something thats been bothering me alot about the final endings to the *movie*. I just watched it about 2 hours ago, and I cant get it out of my head. I can understand Shep not wanting to talk about the Wheelers after her death, since he was secretly in love with her- What I cant get over though, is the ending with Kathy Bates and her husband. Why would she speak so terribly of them at the end? Because of the final incident with their son? He clearly says she always speaks so fondly of them during their first visit over, and she looks devestated when Paris is mentioned. Also, the turning off of the hearing aid…why? Was it over emotional pain he felt for them, and he didnt want to hear her speak of them in that way, kind of how Shep didnt want to talk about it anymore, He couldnt handle hearing what happened to them. Is this the same, perhaps? Or is it out of just plain outrage at her speaking like that, that he cant listen to her, so he tunes it out? This is the first movie that I cannot form my own interpretation from, and its because of the very VERY end with Kathy Bates’s husband. Can I get an opinion here? The ending infuriated me, btw. I cant believe what she was saying after she treated that couple like family for all those years, and I dont understand why she was saying it.

    • kateonyates Says:

      Lots to think about here and sorry for the slow response but I have been away. Mrs Givings (aka Kathy Bates) behaves like that at the end because she always pushes things under the carpet and tries to reaffirm the status quo. The Wheelers rocked her boat. Yes, she was commited to them and tried to help them and wanted their help too, but the moment they mention Paris, she realises that they are not commited to her, to the house and to the suburban idyll that she thinks she offers and which to an extent Yates suggests she represents. I think Mendes saw her like that too but I’m not sure and I can really only talk about the book. All the things she says at the end are said to justify her own position in a community the Wheelers have implicitly criticised. I think it will be clearer to you if you read the book as will the very ending which I don’t think Mendes got quite right. By focussing on Howard G turning off his hearing aid and giving that ambiguous smile, I think you’re right that it is hard to interpret. This is where film is so different from literature. The film, to my mind, should have had the camera pull back after that shot of him turning off his aid, and should have included the image of her still talking and petting their dog (or was it a cat?) without any sound so that his smile would imply he is happy NOT to be able to hear her. Yes I think maybe it was partly what you call the ’emotional pain’ he felt for the Wheelers that means he doesn’t want to hear his wife bad-mouthing them but also I think Yates suggests that the only way that Howard Givings can live with his wife is to live by creating his own little world that she cannot disturb. The implication of this might extend beyond the Givingses and suggest that all men and all women remain very separate in marriage. Does this help?

    • Dana Davison Says:

      I think kateyonyates has a point, and somthing else occured to me. Kathy Bates’ character is a narcissist. Most people, when hearing that word, think of the manager from the movie “Office Space”, or a Ted Bundy type,(he definately was one), but the female “mommy dearest” can be the most terrifying and dangerous of all in a different way. The clues are there all the way along, but just like in real life & especially the female narcissist, she is particularly dangerous because she is so very skilled at hiding her trecherous & manipulative ways.Remember the son, how messed up he was, and asking for legal assistance after attacking his mothèr w a table… the fact that she brought him over to the Wheelers to begin with knowing full well it was going to get ugly. Then her desperate attempts to hide the truth, the pink elephant in the room & she’s talking about the weather, the lovely “picture window” etc.. It is because of her that the son is unwell. We are getting a tiny tip of the iceberg glimpse of what lies just beneath the surface, and I’d bet money she’s very actively involved with church, community and charaties (only so far as others can see it.) Think Annette Benning in American Beauty, or Scarlette O’hara pre-war. Michelle Pfiffer in White Oleander! Underneath it all she’s lethal, but not to everyone. Only to the select few they “target”, and the Wheelers were a target. Usually jealousy is the motive .However, these people depend & survive on having people to “cover” for them, so they’re very careful who gets to “peek behind the curtain”… they think of themselves as brilliant, above and smarter than everyone else. They have no concience, quite literally. The reason she speaks about them that way is because they had been targets of hers, and once they saw thru her charade, and saw how the family dynamic was, they become a liability and it’s time for a “smear campaign”.. (Bringing the son was NOT to help him, or the Weelers. She put her son in the hospital and does not want him well. (fam. isn’t always targeted at first but often get it anyway as default.) Anyone who sees thru her charade AND CONFRONTS HER is going to become a target of her “SMEAR CAMPAIGN”. They know someone knows thier flaw, so they have to be discredited. They also “employ” flying monkeys” (friends, family, co-workers taken in by the charms) to do thier bidding for them. (like the witch in Wizard of Oz) To run nasty little errands, make phone calls, lie for them etc. I’m guessing Dad was a flying monkey at one time but is on to her and disgusted w her. When she starts up her tyraid about the Wheelers, he knows what’s really going on (she has done this many times before! Even to her own child.) These people are VERY dangerous, very good at what they do, and what they do best is lie. Thier whole life is a very well thought out lie. (Dr. Scott Peck wrote about it- “The People of the Lie” Fascinating read. )So, in a very real way, Kathy Bates is basically the murderer of April, who ever else she ravages, and quite possibly her son, if he does anything later. So the husband knows she’s evil, hears her slander of the Wheelers for what it is, and turns down the volume so he can read his book.

  23. I just wanted a woman’s perspective on abortions in the 50s and how common was a “vacuum tube” abortion in the 50s.

    Also, did Frank give April enough support when she told him she was pregnant? He seemed to pounce on her for not telling him sooner.

  24. I agree that it was a suicide. She didn’t love her husband. She didn’t even want to be touched by him. She felt no connection towards him. He turned out to be a regret. She felt no attachment to her life. It wasn’t hers. Her life died. HER husband along with it. From the start we gather that she wanted relevance. She did love her children. She was hurt when her husband insinuated that she didn’t. I would suggest that she called the ambulance because she didn’t want a gruesome, messy death. The house was very neat and tidy that day. She was perfect -hair and make up done – at breakfast. She arranges everything in neatly on her dressing table. When the blood dirties the carpet, she calls the abulence. I believe she wanted to leave a positive image, a legacy of sorts; to have left a stamp, something, anything about her, what she did and how she did it. She wanted to be appreciated for her WORK, the perfect home maker, wife and mom. A messy, bloody home would not do that. She would have had no relevance.

  25. Such a depressing movie. I have a hard time even debating the relevance of whether she killed herself (although I believe she did hope to die). She certainly failed as a mother (if not a human being), truly failing much more the older children she had than the one she would not allow to be. She certainly took a great risk. I believe she chose this path because she felt she had no other choice. The continuation of the status quo was death to her she hoped for suicide because it could appear as though she didn’t truly mean for it to happen. If she had chosen something obvious, like slitting her wrists, it would have been a somewhat more hurtful and shameful legacy to leave behind. Although I can’t imagine explaining her death by abortion to the other kids someday…Argh. Anyway what a sad film.

  26. I feel suicide was most definitely April’s intentions. Throughout the film we see her struggle with Frank. In the beginning she was clearly devastated by her poor performance and all her dreams dashed, yet Frank acts in a very disrespectful and patronising manner. This continues and she clutches onto the one dream she feels they share in order to regain a connection with her Husband. Yet he rubbishes that dream too….
    When April ran off into the woods I could really relate to how she felt, she wanted away from the lonely, hollow pain inside but her body wasn’t her own. She had a baby to protect. Frank also rubbished her ability as a Mother and told her the baby, that she kept for him, wasn’t wanted. In my opinion the following day was very well planned, she had their final breakfast, told him he was an interesting person and was good at what he does – Counteracting previous comments regarding his career and setting him some hope and positive last memories. The calm exterior, cleaning the house to limit the mess left behind as she departs. A calculated suicide. Aside for the emotion she was trying to suppress, as she waved to Frank and tried to pass on her love to their children the pain was clear to see. April was very depressed and grasping at ways in which to restore what they once had, but with what they had now gone and the responsibility of 3 children she had no way out.
    I felt the story was insinuating this was the case in many marriages, given the final scene with Howard tuning out his Wife’s chatter and staring off into the distance. It left me thinking anyway……

    • kateonyates Says:

      If you haven’t already done so, do read the book: it’s more complicated, more thought-provoking and encourages you to work a bit harder to sort out what’s going on.

  27. Fascinating discussion which leaves me feeling that indeed the author did intend an ambiguity reflecting the be-fogged thinking of someone in April’s situation. The posts i most relate to are the those by blossom (that we are meant to share in Frank’s bewildered frustration) and Cheryl on the attitude to parenthood (as a parent I kept asking myself throughout the film ‘Where are the children?’ as the parents’ had visits with and from neighbours. At that time in a family’s life the children are absolutely central and a great source of joy if appreciated while also of strain and challenge. Their absence from the story is telling).

    Beyond these i think the focus on the ‘tidy house/ tidy death’ by Zedra is not really credible and ashley needs to have a think to her/ his self given the degree of sympathy exhibited for April’s selfish perspectives.

  28. Stephen Howell Says:

    I don’t think she cared one way or the other. She knew she didn’t love him anymore and did want to move any farther down the road with him. If she died her problems were over! If she survived she would be in a position to move on with her life.

  29. Hi, Kate. I just finished watching the movie for the second or third time, but I haven’t read the book. I was having trouble coming up with April’s motivation for the self-inflicted abortion, so I did a web search and came up with your blog.

    I think it’s clear that there’s something wrong with April. She seems to suffer from a destructive sort of selflessness. Perhaps what is wrong with April is Frank. Frank himself is not a bad guy, but he doesn’t know how to handle April well. He’s unwilling to give her peace at critical moments. He cannot accept the distance that seems to her necessary and natural, so he in effect smothers her. How can she respond? Since he gives her no room for a healthy self, her self becomes ingrown and warped, and transparent to him, which she likely understands at some level is her only way of living with him. However, this is psychologically destructive to her. She has her own reasons for not wanting the baby; she has ambitions for a more creative life, whereas Frank does not. She has projected herself onto him. She cannot be successful as an actress, so she grasps at her husband’s romantic attachment to Paris as a way to fulfill her hopes through him. He’s not such a man, however, and certainly not serious about work in any real sense (except that of material and ostensible success). In short, April has a bit of the soul of a poet, and makes the mistake of thinking Frank’s the same, but Frank’s just a family man business type who, as I said, doesn’t have the tools to handle April. April must do something to assert her authority over her life, and not be the baby-making machine she is apparently loathe to become. Note her somewhat poor relations with her children.

    All in all, we have a tragedy in the literary sense, based on the mismatch of these two personalities. April’s motivation was simply to assert some of the control over her own life she feels she was missing, and tragically, she died.

    Thanks for you blog and all the posters, helping me to clarify this for myself. I’m reminded somewhat of Sylvia Plath.

    But I haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure how well Mendes interpreted the story.

  30. April did not intend to commit suicide, however she was prepared for the possibility that she might die. And she did not have much of a choice.
    By the end she realizes that she has been chasing a mirage all along (and lying to Frank and to herself) and that Frank was never and could never be the man she thought or hoped he would be. Yates clearly conveys this in the novel.
    Her marriage as she finally understood it was over. She no longer wanted to or could live a life of lies. It is very understable that in her situation, she did not want to bring another child into her life. Had she survived she would have left Frank and moved on the best she could.
    April inspite of her flaws is portrayed as a strong and brave character who could ultimately see and accept the truth (unlike Frank). She ultimately falls a victim to her own strength.

    • kateonyates Says:

      I can’t argue with this. I think your reading is very persuasive, Aruna. Many thanks for your contribution.

      • You are welcome Kate. Lots of interesting and different perspectives on your blog. I just finished reading the novel and watched the movie as well and wanted to share my perspective.

      • Kris thompson Says:

        I have just watched this movie and even though it is 6 years later after what Aruna Says … I felt so compelled to write my disagreement with her. The way you see April as being strong and brave, I see the complete opposite. We all have our own realities and dreams but what makes us strong is knowing the difference and our choice to live our lives accordingly. April wanted to go to Paris. She even talked Frank into it. But then she became pregnant, he had a chance of a promotion and he realized that the reality of their life was not going to be Paris. In his mind he was going to have three children, a wife and a home and dreams weren’t going to pay the bills. That’s what makes Frank strong and brave. He knew the difference between their reality and their dream. That’s what makes April weak and selfish because if it couldn’t be Paris, then it could be nothing. How many of us in real life have to put aside our dreams to take care of our responsibilities? I’m willing to bet the majority! Moving forward everyday doing what we may not have envisioned for ourselves is what makes us strong and brave. I got on this site because I actually wanted to find out what made April so angry so I was researching it when I found these comments. As I said before, 6 years later but I still wanted to comment.

      • kateonyates Says:

        Since your argument is solely based on the movie I’m afraid it’s irrelevant. I know that sounds harsh but I’m not interested in the movie version at all: it’s an interpretation of Yates’ work. If you read the novel you will get a much more sympathetic and more complicated description of April’s character and actions. I’m afraid only Yates’ words are pertinent to this discussion. If you read the other comments you will see I’ve said this many times.

  31. Victoria A D Says:

    Does Shep think that the baby that April aborted was his? Or should I not read a double meaning into Shep’s reaction at the hospital–he was just devastated as he had feelings for April? Thanks ! :O)

  32. Aifric N S Says:

    I think that April knowingly took her own life. She was aware of the consequences of a late abortion, she phoned Millie (was too upset to say goodbye to her kids) she left a note to Frank. She prepared the breakfast, laid out her dressing table all neat and “perfect” personally I think she intended on killing herself.

    She was enormously unhappy in her life, she had ideas of grandeur and great plans for herself, and when she met Frank she was blown away, she saw a fire in him that she felt akin too. As an actress she was deeply emotional ( I think her emotions overwhelmed her, she found it difficult to manage/regulate her impulsive behaviours)..and looking back on the book/movie might it be relevant to suggest she was suffering from some sort of mental illness, something like bi-polar? She dips from being low, unhappy and unsatisfied in the beginning of the book, to the spur of the moment spontaneous move to Paris, an instantaneous whim after looking at a photo of a younger happier Frank. She is suddenly happy and content with life (almost to a point of deliriousness) she ropes Frank in, and for a while he toys with the idea, but ultimately knows that it was all a bit of a dream. Whereas April can never get over it and spirals into another deeper depression ( not helped by her unwanted pregnancy) she suffers a sense of hopelessness which she cannot accept. April was a strong character, she knew what she wanted, but I feel she just didn’t always know how to deal with “life” when things didn’t work out. She wanted to be an actress, she gave up her life when she became pregnant and moved to Revolutionary Road, she wanted herself and Frank to be amazing, her parents had failed her as a child..I think she just couldn’t handle any more. She just wanted out.

    The sad part for me was she knew she was going to die…why did she phone the ambulance? was it to save Frank? (and potentially Millie or her kids from discovering her cold bloody body, not to mention the unborn child)..or was it a last minute wave of regret, that she wanted to undo what she had done? I think saving Frank is the more likely.

    I don’t know if I fully agree with the idea that she was a selfish person..well maybe to an extent, but if she was ruthlessly selfish she could easily not have told Frank about the pregnancy and simply dealt with it herself while he was away at work. I think she was living on a high with the Paris dream, she wanted to get away (didn’t have to be Paris, could have been anywhere) and might have even looked forward to having the baby in a new home new “Way of Life” away from the stifling housewives suburban cage….when the realisation that nothing would change, that if they moved it would be to another bigger better suburban area, that she would fall in and out of love with Frank, that she would remain so desperately unhappy…she couldn’t face up to living like that any more.

    Just saying, is all 😛 Great topic by the way

    • kateonyates Says:

      Thank you for taking the time to respond so fully and so sensitively to the issues, Aifric. I think you are spot on about many of them. I particularly like the way you question the phone call: ‘The sad part for me was she knew she was going to die…why did she phone the ambulance? was it to save Frank? (and potentially Millie or her kids from discovering her cold bloody body, not to mention the unborn child)..or was it a last minute wave of regret, that she wanted to undo what she had done? I think saving Frank is the more likely.’ I have pondered this a lot and maybe you’re right, that it was to save Frank from making the awful discovery. Kate

  33. John Jamison Says:

    I just happened upon this wonderful movie 1/7/2014 10 PM Central Time HBO . I also happened upon this discussion because the movie did not answer my question as to wheather April died or simply recovered and left Frank with the kids.

    Now that the death question has been answered, you all hit me with another question of “was it suicide or accidental” I think the movie clearly leaves both possibilities to be bantered with each side going into a deep apologia of their view.

    Before coming to this site, my first natural reaction was that her death was an accident. But upon reading this site and thinking about the argument the afternoon before and her mental state, and the ultimate morning breakfast and new found interest/love for her husband to throw him off the scent, and the telephone call to the kids; after watching the breakfast scene, my two thoughts were, “She’s either going to perform the abortion or kill herself.”

    As is the discussion of this post, it is very unclear her original intent; thus the interesting conversation. The movie ending totally belies a clear path to her original intent. I abdicate any hard stance of a position one way or the other.

    • kateonyates Says:

      Thanks for your comment. I really really don’t want to discuss the movie. This blog is about the novel and they are very different – not so much in terms of what happens but in terms of how you interpret both character and event. But I published your comment because I like your passion for the story! Please read the book and then write again.

  34. I’ve read most of the comments on the post, and I’m very much enjoying reading the different views.

    In my humble opinion (and bear in mind that I’ve only seen the movie and haven’t read the book), April had made a terrible mistake by marrying a man like Frank who came off at first as ambitious, interesting and vague in a way that makes her want to know more and throw herself into trying new things with him. But soon, she found herself with a man who wants a life completely different than the one she’d planned for. He wanted children when obviously SHE didn’t, he was alright with a job that he disliked and the routine of everyday life, while she was striving for an adventure she’s enjoying. He’s a man looking for a calm place to settle down, she’s looking for a constant change..
    So she decided to convince herself and him that the leave to Paris was for Frank. She might have been selfish at SO many points, but obviously that’s because of a big mistake at the very beginning when she was impressed with the wrong man, dreaming of the wrong life (at least to Frank), and for the whole 2 hours of the movie, she’s been trying to fix that terrible mistake by thinking immaturely and stepping on everyone else’s emotions, hoping she’d run into a solution, but obviously, she failed.

    I’m pretty positive many viewers found her immature, but I believe that’s only part of her wanting so bad to seek the life she’s always dreamed of, in a desperate try to defend the last bits of hope to live happily. I couldn’t help but sympathize with her. The movie made me imagine making reckless decisions and seeing -as a consequence- all my dreams stepped upon.
    I believe she had so much good in her, and in her last try to give up and TRY to live happily the way LIFE planned for her, she aborted herself for a fresh start, but instead, unintentionally, killed herself.

    • kateonyates Says:

      Even though you are writing about the movie I have posted this because you make some great points about April’s motivation throughout the story. BUT I urge you to read the book. It’s much more nuanced and more interesting to get Yates’s narrative rather than someone else’s interpretation of that narrative.

      • Dana Davison Says:

        Kate, I have a question for you. Was Millie aware that Shep was in love with April? He was, right? Also thankyou for printing my comment before. I didn’t realize til’ afterwards exactly what this was (having an english major mother she would have had my hide! lol) as I, too, came here with questions from the movie. I will be reading the book as soon as I can get my hands on it… I have a world of down time as I am a recovering leukemia patient after bone marrow transplant…have alot of time on my hands, which I suppose beats the alternative, ‘eh??

  35. heather van de mark Says:

    i viewed it as — when they sit down to have that final breakfast, Kate gives Frank one final chance to be truthful. But he confirms her fears–this is the life Frank wants.

    Kate waits for Frank to leave, so she can carry out her plan. I believe her plan is to abort the baby and then leave Frank.

    She clearly isn’t going to abort the baby and stay with Frank. She cries when talking to Milly–she knows she’s not going to see her kids again.

    And I don’t think Kate’s character would abort and hope to, or as a means to, die. Mendes (in the film) makes it a point to call out how tough Kate is (at the dinner scene with John–right, John being the voice of truth in the film.). Kate wants to live. Kate is not afraid of the hopeless emptiness. She knows she can’t have that baby.

    What’s tragic is that she realizes this about herself too late.

    • kateonyates Says:

      Thank you for taking the time to write, Heather. I am posting your comment to show how confused people can become when they write about the film rather than the novel. The character in Yates’ book is called April and she behaves in significantly different ways to Kate Winslet’s interpretation of her in the film.

  36. I realize how terribly late i am to this discussion but i’ve just re-watched the movie again and I finally have a theory that i can live with. I believe April knew SOMETHING had to change. I think she knew 100% that she couldn’t handle another child . She’d literally rather die than start over as a new mother. She didn’t know what exactly would happen when she took that tubing into the bathroom but she knew the motherhood thing would be out of the question and though she didn’t prefer it she knew her own death was a real possibility. She weighed her options, after hearing her kids play outside called them as a precaution, went upstairs, took her chances and unfortunately she not only aborted the baby but killed herself. I actually think she decided she wanted to live when she made the 911 call. Very tragic . Very real. The things Frank and her kids will never know. After watching this movie a few times I can finally see April’s demise as a very desperate, human, albeit selfish thing to do.

    • kateonyates Says:

      As with so many of my other responses to comments posted, I’d like to thank you for writing on my blog but I am NOT interested in the film. The novel by Yates and the film by Mendes are two very different things: at best, the film is an interpretation of Yates’s writing. Sam Mendes (& the screenplay writer, camera operators, editors etc) are all creating layers of distance from an original, different story. I’d love you to read the novel and then tell me what you think of the ending…..

  37. How insensitive people are….. Was she supposed to play the happy wifey while living a life that had no meaning to her? The end is an act of despair, denial of her living status. She doesn’t wanted to bring another child to that family, to that reality. If it was nowadays she would have filled for divorce and pursued her dreams… She wanted to have a different life, to scape the suburban mediocrity, the existence that was meaningless.She and the mathematician where the only two who wasnt hypocrites. When she saw that it was not possible because her husband betrayed her, their plan. The one on both agreed but Frank decided to jumped off when he saw money ahead and praise. He choosed to do what he wanted with no consideration for what they planed together as a couple. She seemed in trouble the morning she decided to abort. But how can we know if it was suicide or not? it’s obviously an open ending like did Machado de Assis in Dom Casmurro novel where he keep us from knowing if Capitu has or has not betrayed her husband ( -a must read author. About void life I can mention another author: Fernando Pessoa, portuguese poet

    “Pity him who lives at home
    Happy with his life,
    Without a dream, a flexing of wings,
    To make him relinquish
    Even the warmest ember of his hearth!

    Pity him who is happy!
    He lives because life lasts.
    Nothing within him whispers
    More than the primeval law:
    That life leads to the grave.

  38. LaShone Says:

    I just watched the movie. I plan on reading the book. But, I do concur that she was both trying to abort the baby and commit suicide. In the movie she stands by the window with a smirk on her face. The phone called to Milly, the breakfast, and her demeanor period led me to believe this.

  39. Bonnie Dexter Says:

    I am just answering this question. My wrting is not as eloquent or complete as the others. My opinion is suicide. I guess this question carn only be answered by the reader, their experiences, their life, and if they have ever or do struggle with the thoughts os suicide.

  40. sylvanmoir Says:

    I thought it was clear that the touchstone of reality was provided by the nutter – who so quickly and emphatically agreed with them about the life of hopeless emptiness that would engulf this special couple unless they followed their dreams.
    Frank chickens out and then rationalises his cowardice and blames April for his failings. She is emotionally true and unflinching and always works to find her heart -: he lives on stale conventional half-truths. What he really cares about most is his image – but he lacks the awareness or courage to even suspect this is what fuels a lot of his tirades and attacks on April. He is so unaware he cannot see that he is radically incapable of loving her ,or he insensibly loses the capacity and awareness as he indulges in tirades against her and becomes the victim of his own massive need to be the controlling man in charge of the family in a way convention sanctions.

    In the woods she makes her final decision, and at breakfast she is resolved and calm , knowing what she must choose. She already left him the night before in the woods. So she is able to be sweet and interested in his work etc . The terrible poignant truth at this point is that she has finally accepted Frank at his own valuation. She will never again hope/imagine/dream that this man can be noble and amazing. She accepts him as he insists he is : as a very small man or scarcely a man at all – and such she cannot stay with, or bring another child into the world with. This is the last breakfast.
    I doubt she meant to kill herself .
    Kathy Bates may be narcissistic. Her real significance however is as a kind of concretised monstrous example of what happens if the prejudices prescribed by society are venerated scrupulously . Risk-averse, conservative, obsessed with what the neighbours think,house- proud to the point of dementedness,with no emotional honesty at all – a polar opposite to April – easily capable of driving her son nuts – .

    • kateonyates Says:

      I think your reading of April and how she arrives at her decision is very interesting. Can I just say Kathy Bates is not a character in the novel and I am only interested in the novel. The film is a re-interpretation and is not Yates’ work.

  41. Hello. Congratulations on finishing your thesis! I am neither a student or a teacher although I enjoyed studying literature in my student days. I was compelled to read the book after I watched the movie. I have been pondering this question all week. I agree that Yates leaves both possibilities open. I think that the better view is that April did not intend to die although she knew that giving herself an abortion after the ‘safe’ date had passed carried a high risk of death. In the book she leaves the number of the hospital next to the phone before she performs the procedure. There was also noone around the house so only April could have called the ambulance after the procedure went wrong. This precaution of looking up the hospital number beforehand as well as the act of ringing the hospital suggest that she wanted to survive. Additionally her note to Frank said ‘whatever happens don’t blame yourself’ which seems to leave open the possibility that she might survive. Anyway best wishes for the future.

    • kateonyates Says:

      I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to receive a comment based on a close reading of the novel rather than the film! Thank you so much. I think I agree with every word of this: both possibilities are tantalisingly left open.

  42. Dylan Rochester Says:

    Congrats on your accomplishments.

    I feel like it was unintended. Though I feel like she wasn’t thinking at all when she done it. You know how emotions interfere with consciousness and awareness sort of thing. Maybe she thought I could die, but probably not, screw it.

    • kateonyates Says:

      Thank you for this Dylan. Yes, maybe ‘screw it’ was all she had mental and emotional capacity for. She knew time was running out.

  43. I just watched this movie and I think she did it on purpose. I think she knew she could die and she didn’t want to live there anymore. She had dreams of moving to Paris and Frank started backing away from that dream to live there have another kid and get his raise. Frank most likely thought this would be the best choice for them. I think she then felt though she didn’t wanna die and that’s why she called for the ambulance.

    • kateonyates Says:

      Thank you for your comment. However, this blog is about the novel not the movie. They are very different art forms and the narratives aren’t the same. The movie is an interpretation of Yates’ work.

  44. John made a devastating but poignant statement on the way out of the Wheeler’s house “I’m glad I’m not gonna be that kid” (last sentence of chapter 5). The fetus was going to be another unwanted child, another mistake. April realised “…that if you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone.”

    The cold realisation came upon April – the abortion has to be done beyond the 12-week cut-off date regardless of the risks to her life.

    Near the end of Chapter 7: “There was only one big, important thing to say, and it was best said in a very few words—so few as to allow no possible elaborations or distortions of meaning.
    Dear Frank,
    Whatever happens please don’t blame yourself.”

    I believe April left the note for Frank knowing full well the very real likelihood that she will not be around anymore to explain its meaning. She has resigned herself to “whatever happens” afterwards.

    This story brilliantly brings into focus two intertwined existential questions:
    1) If one’s life is just “hopeless emptiness”, why does it matter if one died of suicide or live an accidental life? The person is pretty much dead anyway.
    2) Who is the crazy one? The one crazy enough to risk financial safety to pursue one’s dream (even if it may turn out to be just a mirage) or the one who accepts a lifeless status quo?

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