Is Jessie right to end her life?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Presupposing that our consideration of ethical issues can be enriched by examining literary works, this paper focuses on Marsha Norman's play ‘night, Mother. The play describes the last hour and a half in the life of Jessie, a young woman who decides to die by suicide. Before ending her life, Jessie explains to her mother her reasons for her suicide. In the context of the play, these are presented as quite weighty and as, perhaps, justifying her decision. Scholarly research on the play has also treated Jessie's suicide favorably. In this paper I argue that Jessie, and people in similar conditions, are wrong to die by suicide. Among other points, I criticize Jessie's arguments from the impossibility to improve life; the assured termination of suffering; the badness of the world; and the right for suicide. I also criticize arguments in the scholarly literature that view Jessie's suicide favorably, such as the arguments from independence, heroism, authenticity, and emotional closeness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-174
Number of pages12
JournalPhilosophical Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author. The Philosophical Forum published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • ethics
  • meaning in life
  • suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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