From his scholarly and personal experiences, Lewis Thomas postulates in his essay that our anxieties about the pain of dying are possibly unfounded, thereby assuaging our fears in the hope that we will view death as a “natural” part of life. In his essay, “On Natural Death,” he uses inductive reasoning and appeals to both reason and emotion to persuade his readers to no longer fear the pain of death. Thomas provides the example of the death of an elm tree to build the reader’s idea of the subject of death. He begins his essay with the death of an object that has little to no reaction on humans.
Speaking about the death of the elm tree, Thomas’s statement, “…and took it down branch by branch and carted it off in the back of a red truck, everyone singing,” is meant to be humorous. By using humor, Thomas emphasizes the lack of empathy humans show when something, that hardly seems alive in the first place, dies. Although humans have little reaction to the death of nature, Thomas steps it up a notch when he talks about the death of something not so human, but also far from nature. “The dying of a field mouse, at the jaws of an amiable household cat” is the next example Thomas exhibits in his essay. Early in life I gave up throwing sticks at the cat to make him drop the mouse, because the dropped mouse regularly went ahead and died anyway, but I always shouted unaffections at the cat to let him know the sort of animal he had become. Nature, I thought, was an abomination. ” Thomas articulates that we show some reaction to small animals or creatures, but not much, because everyone accepts animal death as part of the natural cycle of life. Thomas appeals to reason by providing information on the death of the mouse. At the instant of being trapped and penetrated by teeth, peptide hormones are being released by cells in the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland; instantly these substances, called endorphins, are attached to the surfaces of other cells responsible for pain perception; the hormones have the pharmacologic properties of opium; there is no pain. ” This is a very strong statement in Thomas’s essay because by applying logic he gets closer to convincing the reader that there is no pain when you die, therefore further stating in a humorous way, “If a mouse could shrug, he’d shrug. To further influence the reader, Thomas discusses real life situations in which people encountered death first handedly. By alluding to Montaigne’s essay in which he states, “It was an idea that was only floating on the surface of my soul, as delicate and feeble as all the rest, but in truth not only free from distress but mingled with that sweet feeling that people have who have let themselves slide into sleep,” Thomas appeals to reason.
Thomas employs this statement for proof that death is not only painless, but also free from anxiety, easing the reader’s worries about dying. Death is not to be feared. It is natural, painless, and worriless, as exhibited by Thomas with the use of inductive reasoning. It is proven that you do not feel pain when you die, so why should you fear it? Your body knows how to die, all you have to do is lay back and let nature take its course.