The Tragic Elizabeth Edwards

What Women Really Think
Dec. 7 2010 12:08 PM

The Tragic Elizabeth Edwards

News broke Monday that Elizabeth Edwards' cancer is past the point where treatment would be effective. She is at home in North Carolina with her family, including estranged husband John. I've always been sympathetic to Elizabeth , as she's a smart, admirable woman who has been so unlucky in life: Her oldest son Wade died as a teenager; she's had cancer for the past six years; her husband had a cruel, extremely public affair.

In her memoir, Resilience , she recognizes that her circumstances are unfortunate-"My life, at some level, is tragic," she writes-but the ugly events themselves aren't the saddest part. Though other observers may disagree , Edwards says that before all those bad things happened to her, her "chosen reality" was an "old-fashioned world of private passion and unadorned beauty and a life constructed around things of purity and purpose." You could see some of that purity and purpose in her fight for health care reform . Though she was indeed resilient in her fight against cancer and her dedication to her causes and her family, the most tragic part of the Edwards story is that the old-fashioned world she desired was completely and thoroughly destroyed.



Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.



The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Naomi Klein Is Wrong

Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change.

The Strange History of Wives Gazing at Their Husbands in Political Ads


See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
Sept. 30 2014 12:04 PM John Hodgman on Why He Wore a Blue Dress to Impersonate Ayn Rand
  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 2:36 PM This Court Erred The Supreme Court has almost always sided with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful.
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 30 2014 11:42 AM Listen to Our September Music Roundup Hot tracks from a cooler month, exclusively for Slate Plus members.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 12:42 PM How to Save Broken Mayonnaise
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 2:38 PM Scientists Use Electrical Impulses to Help Paralyzed Rats Walk Again
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.