A Side View of Death
The inevitable destination on this earth for mankind is death. Death is defined as the end of life; the total and permanent cessation of all the vital functions. This is a very interesting subject to write about because people have always wondered about death and how they would face it when the inevitable comes. Further in the text I will write about three different characters in English Literature that pertain to this topic of death, how they faced it, and what circumstances they died in.
First, The Harlequin from the story of “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison. The Harlequin, whose real name is Everett C. Marm, is a “man who had no sense of time.” Dressed in motley fashion, the Harlequin disrupts the daily activities of the society in which he lives through practical jokes (such as showering shift workers with jelly beans) and his general lack of attention to time. This makes Marm a menace to society and forces the Ticktockman to search out and punish him by stopping his life clock and die. In this type of story the theme used by Ellison is about individualism and the struggle against conformity. Ellison clearly sets his hero, the Harlequin, in opposition to both the totalitarian regime of the Ticktockman plus the master schedule and to the masses of people who choose to conform to the strictures of this society. When Marm is captured, apparently he is brainwashed, and made to appear on television to recant. The Harliquin’s reply to the Ticktockman, “Get stuffed!” indicates his status as the trickster/rebel, the character who refuses to cooperate with authority in spite of the danger to him. Marm did not fear his fate as the true hero Ellison portrayed him to be. In essence one can say that “he went down swinging”
Second, in the story “The Ones who walk away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin; the character is introduced to the reader after the description of a utopian society where it’s portrayed an imaginary, ideal world where laws, government, and social conditions are perfect. The narrator of the story states: “I wish I could describe Omelas better. I wish I could convince you. Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time.” The people’s happiness is not determined by the external bits and pieces of life in Omelas, but rather, the absence of those accessories in Omelas “the people of Omelas are happy people” The character is described to be a boy or a girl that is placed in a dirty, dusty, dank locked room underneath a building, may be in a basement or a wine cellar. This child is in fear of its surroundings, never directly approached by the townspeople except when they “kick the child to make it stand up” This harsh treatment is hard to understand because this is the only way of life for this child. It’s explained by the narrator that with out this child, Omelas will cease to exist. At first it’s tough to grasp the idea or imagine how brutal this must be, but later in the story one discovers that many people in Omelas had no knowledge that this child even existed. Most people were conformant of this type of treatment to a child because this is what allowed the city to be what it is, and others who felt they could do nothing to stop this behavior, simply left Omelas so that guilt of this cruelty wouldn’t come upon them and not face how this person would meat his/her death. In this case the child did not know how or what had happened in their life to deserve this and the reader is left to make out how death would come to the child. Since “guilt” did not exist in Omelas, those that did feel guilty chose to leave the town. The child in this case faced torment and death as a type of sacrifice to allow the city Omelas to continue to exist.
Third, in the story Rose for Emily by William Faulkner has a very peculiar character of a lonesome lady called Emily. The story begins with the death of Miss Emily Grierson, and how the whole town went to her funeral. The women of the town went mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which is “a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street.” The narrator skips back in time thirty years, to two years after the death of Miss Emily’s father and just a short time after the disappearance of her sweetheart. The neighbors complained to Judge Stevens, the mayor, about a smell coming from the woman’s home. Her sweetheart was Homer Barron and they’ve been seen living together out of wedlock and the town disproved of it. One day a neighbor reported seeing Homer Barron return to the house “at dusk one evening.” But he was never seen again. Miss Emily had visited a drug store looking for “rat poison” days earlier. After that, Miss Emily did not leave the house for six months. Six to Seven years later she dies. A group of townspeople waited until Miss Emily “was decently in the ground” before forcing open the door to a deserted room above the stairs. The room was coated in dust, and “decked and furnished as for a bridal,” including a man’s toiletries and “carefully folded” suit. And there on the bed was the rotting body of Homer Barron in a nightshirt. On the pillow next to him, also coated in dust was the indentation of a head, and a single strand of “iron-gray hair,” which the reader can assume belonged to Miss Emily. This woman was clearly stuck in the past and could not let go of the loss of a loved one and decided to keep her sweetheart next to her for till death. Here this character has a clear fear of death and did not want to feel alone.
The reading of these pieces of American literature has made me realize that death can not be classified as a type of event of the life cycle, but that many times it has meaning or it serves a greater purpose in a superior plan.