A while ago, I read a piece of a story (yeah, it was fan fiction and it has a lot of parts, but they feel too short to be called chapters) where a character, who has isolated herself because she's been teased a bullied for years, loses something that is important to her. After she spends the day searching for it, ditching all her classes, which makes her more depressed and anxious, she climbs several flights of stairs into a room where she knows she can be alone. She enters the room, walks over to a window, pushes the window open, steps up, and steps out. She falls, of course. She survives because she's the kind of character who isn't really allowed to accomplish what she sets out to do. (Also, she's not a main character. She's used to push the main character into a new situation and build that character more.)
That's where that part of the story ends. With her on the ground.
The story didn't bother me. In fact, I found it very honest. What bothered me was a lot of the discussion that came after it was posted.
The character was hated by nearly everyone who has been reading the story as it's been serialized. She was passive. She let things happen to her. She didn't take stands or push back. Her response was to run away and hide if she could. If she couldn't hide, she took what was thrown at her then moved on knowing it, or something similar, was going to happen to her again.
So, when she tried to kill herself, many of the people wrote comments saying good riddance. They didn't like her. They didn't want her around. They thought she took time away from the main characters.
One person tried to defend the character I've been writing about. This person wrote very passionately about people being bullied and how it destroys self-esteem and what it's like to live in constant fear.
Of course the defense was brushed aside. She would have been a better character if she'd stood up for herself. Bullies back off when confronted. She was a drag on the story. She didn't do anything to help the plot. And so on.
The defender continued to try to write about what led the character to step out the window. The defender wrote that this character just got tired of being noticed and wanted to end it and went the only way she could.
To that, one of the other people who hated the character wrote that if she hadn't wanted to be noticed that she wouldn't have tried to kill herself in such a spectacular and public way and that if she hadn't wanted to be noticed, she should have stood up for herself so she'd be left alone.
The defender quit trying to defend here. There was no point in the defender continuing on. The others didn't want to understand. So the conversation stopped online, but not in my head.
(For the record, I am not the one who was defending the character. All of this was written between the time I moved from North Bay to Cowtown and I started getting online regularly. It took a long time for me to catch up on the reading that I wanted to do. I can't say I would have gotten involved. I'm not so good at being part of a "community," even if it is a virtual one.)
What bothered me was the person saying that she tried to kill herself in a spectacular and public way and the implication that there's a way for a person to kill him/herself that wouldn't be spectacular or public.
In this world where (nearly) everyone believes that their life is precious, one taking his/her own life will always seem spectacular, once it's discovered. People are always shocked, whether it's someone quietly hanging him/herself in the garage or if he/she puts a pistol to his/her head in a crowded mall and pulls a trigger. One is reacted to more strongly than the other, but it all comes down to the average person asking why a person would kill him/herself. Because they can't fathom that someone wouldn't want to live. And once the death is discovered, even the quiet, private one, it becomes spectacular and public.
So, how do you explain to the average person that someone may not value his/her life like most people do? Can the average person understand the feelings of self-hatred, or worthlessness, or simple exhaustion others may have? Or will it just bounce off them because they simply believe that humans are simply animals and the first thing all animals try to do is survive?
Are humans simply animals? Do we simply want to survive as a species, if not as an individual? Are those who don't want to survive then wrong? Is it part of "je pense, donc je suis"?