I think I have time to get this posted, so here it goes. This topic
has been running around in my brain for a few months. The trigger to
actually trying to put my thoughts down in some sort of cognizant form
was an earlier post in response to a discussion on this board about
Arwen giving up on life so soon after the death of Aragorn. The poster
commented that they thought Arwen still had plenty to live for; her
children and grandchildren-to-be being the most important. I had never
questioned Arwen's inability to continue on in Middle Earth after the
death of her lover, her husband, her king. But I was not sure why,
especially as I absolutely believe that people can often live
fulfilling, meaningful, happy lives after losing a loved spouse.
So how is Arwen's story different? I think something my grandmother told me when she was in her late 80's helps explain my acceptance of Arwen's decision as much as anything else. My grandmother, although she was still mentally alert, keeping up with current events, capable of taking care of herself and not in pain (to my knowledge), told me that she was ready to go whenever her time was up. She noted that her parents had long since died, as had her husband, and not only was she the last of her siblings, but she had just lost the last of her old friends. She had wonderful, loving relationships with her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, but it was not enough.
As I grow older, I think that I understand more clearly just how connected we are with the people, culture, society, and world events of our childhood and adolescence. Those influences on our growth, personality and moral development become very ingrained into who we are. As we age, the world around us also changes. Good grief, my grandmother depended on a horse and buggy in her youth and now if you don't keep up with the newest electronic advances you are almost left in the dust!
My grandmother's children and grandchildren, although they loved her, could not know/understand her as well as someone who had lived and experienced the same world view. They did not share the same base of knowledge and reality.
Arwen was an immortal elf who chose to stay in Middle Earth with a mortal man. Her people, who she had spent several thousand years with, left her behind. I have no doubt she loved her children as much as anyone could. However, when her anchor, her only reson for staying in such a foreign environment, died she must have felt totally abandoned. NO ONE could have possibly understood who she was. How could they? How could beings who lived for just a short smattering of years possibly understand someone who had lived thousands of years? The whole rhythm of their lives would be totally different. No matter how well she had adjusted to the world of men, it could never be hers. My goodness, just one fairly glaring example is that in LOTR the elves seemed to be content to wait a thousand or more years before marrying (which is just as well, Middle Earth would have been overpopulated long before the Third Age if they had the same drive to procreate as mankind does!) While Arwen loved her children, they only knew her as their mother. They also were born into, and grew up in, a very different world. They could not understand or know her as did those who had left to travel over the sea.
In my very humble opinion, Arwen really did not have any reason to stay in Middle Earth after Aragorn died (whether or not such an option was available to her). I have no doubt she would have stayed if her children still needed her, but then Aragorn would not have chosen to die until he was sure they were able to take up the threads of their lives. All of which makes Arwen's decision to stay in Middle Earth with Aragorn even more poignant. It boggles my mind to contemplate how radical the change was for Arwen, going from living in a society where everyone could expect to live till the end of time to one where they lived only for about - what, maybe 100 years (her husband was, thank goodness, the exception and lived over 200 years - still a smidge of time compared to the life span of an elf). The very fabric and rhythm of everyday life had to have been different between these two extremes. Arwen must have been very brave, confident, wise and very much in love to have chosen to live just a smattering of years with Aragorn, among people who were not part of her world view.