chapter  3
34 Pages

The Emergence of Modern Suicide

ByRobert L. Barry

This chapter traces development of modern suicide in the Western world and also some of its history in the Orient to the extent that this has a bearing on Western suicidal practices. The form of suicide most commonly associated with Japan and Shinto was hara-kiri, which was a highly formalized rite throughout most of its history. It is difficult for Westerners to understand suicide in India primarily because there are few reliable witnesses to Indian suicidal practices prior to the modern era, and contemporary works on Indian suicide have been of uneven and undependable quality. Forcing the divine presence from the world intensified early modern obsessions with death and the spirit of melancholy replaced the macabre spirit of the late Middle Ages. In the Renaissance and Enlightenment, the force of the Christian objections to suicide was broken, which resulted in the emergence of romanticized suicide.