Subject of Death in Three Different Novels

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

The subject of death is very emotional and controversial. Death comes to every form of life one day and that is a day that is awaited upon by all. One can never know how and when they are going to die. There are three short stories that deal with death and whether it defines the value of life. The three stories that deal with this topic are “The Death of the Moth” by Virginia Woolf, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway, and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” also by Ernest Hemingway. In these stories, it is evident that the attitude that is taken towards death shapes the nature of one’s life, thus death defines the value of life.In the short story “The Death of the Moth,” it is apparent that the narrator sees that when the moth’s death is approaching it changes the way that it is going to live the rest of its life. The narrator realises that the moth at first flutters around to find a way out. After flying for a long time and then finally dropping on its back the narrator knows that the moth’s time has come. The narrator believes that the moth doesn’t give up on life, but instead keeps on trying its best to use what it has left to the best.After perhaps a seventh attempt he slipped from the wooden ledge and fell, fluttering his wings, on to his back on the windowsill.

The helplessness of his attitude roused me. It flashed upon me that he was in difficulties; he could no longer raise himself; his legs struggled vainly. (p. 46) This quotation shows how the narrator concluded that the moth, after trying so hard, was exhausted and was dying. Virginia Woolf illustrates how the narrator believed the moth, like humans, when it had the chance changed the way it was going to die. The narrator states the moth had many options, it could have just given up, or it could have tried to the end, which it did. It is evident that the narrator knew the moth died with dignity; it was able to fight to the end; it fought with death, but was defeated. This thus portrays that the attitude towards death shapes the nature of life. Another quotation that helps to prove what the narrator thought of the moth’s death is:Just as life had been strange a few minutes before, so death was now strange. The moth having righted himself now lay most decently and uncomplainingly composed. O yes, he seemed to say death is stronger than I am. (p. 47) The narrator noticed that the moth lay in a position that did not show it as being weak and insignificant, but as something that had died with dignity and had fought all the way to the end.

Therefore, in this story Virginia Woolf illustrates that death defines the value of life, because the narrator illustrates that the moth knowing that death was waiting kept on fighting to the end, and achieved dignity and admiration. Similarly, in the short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” Ernest Hemingway toys with the idea that death defines the value of one’s life. In this story it is evident that the old man is keeping himself away from death. The dark and death to him symbolize pure nothingness. The old man’s idea of death and darkness resort him to staying awake all night and then sleeping in the day, because the nothingness has gone, just to come back again. A quotation from the story that is said by the old waiter, he is thinking to himself that like the old man he finds everything to be nothing:Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. (p. 44) Here it is evident the old waiter believes that he sees himself in the old man and like him finds everything to be nothing. Everything is nothingness having no real meaning and only bringing death closer and closer. In this story the character knows where death is and to him it is in the night and in the nothingness.

The character’s attitude towards death shows how dignity in his life really matters. It is stressed throughout this story that one must have dignity to be something, because after all a man is nothing:It is light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear? It was not fear or dread. It was nothing that he knew too well. It was all nothing and a man was nothing too. It as only that and light as all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. (p. 44)

The old waiter thinks that a person needs dignity and he says this when he is going for a drink. The man not only believed that death and darkness signified nothingness, but he also thought that to stay away from death you had to been in the right surroundings. This is where light and cleanness plays a very big part. In order for one to retain their dignity from death they had to be in the right atmosphere doing the right thing. Death is defining this character’s life because he knows that death is creeping up on him and he makes himself a routine that he follows everyday. Thus, Ernest Hemingway in this story shows that death defines the value of life, by making one realize the deeper meaning of life, which is that there is no deeper meaning there is only nothingness.Finally, In the short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” Ernest Hemingway once again deals with the attitude towards death and the shape that it gives life. In this story, it is evident that the central character is struggling with death, and he finds death an adventure. It is an adventure that adds to the others he has experienced in his life. Death is something that comes on a person when their time has come. In this story, the character sees death as something that occupies space and comes to get him.

A quotation that illustrates this is:Because, just then, death had come and rested its head on the foot of the cot and he could smell its breath…It moved up on him now, but it had no shape any more. It simply occupied space. ‘Tell it to go away.’ It did not but it moved a little closer. ‘You’ve got a hell of a breath,’ he told it. (p. 606) Death was right over this man and it was something that had been coming and he had seen it coming. His attitude towards it changed how he lived the rest of his life because he decided that if he was going nothing was going to stay behind after him because he was going to take everything. He was going to make his wife unhappy, which he did. The reason for this is because he did not really love her; he had for a short while. He was still with her because of her money and she treated him well. He had already loved once and lost the love of his life. This man was not frightened of death he was ready for it. He was a man that got bored of things very quickly. He changed his women like he changed his clothes, and death was also something that he was becoming bored of.

A quotation that shows this is:I’m getting as bored with dying as with everything else, he thought. ‘It’s a bore,” he said out loud. ‘What is, my dear?’ ‘Anything you do too bloody long.” (p. 605) This illustrates that death for him was becoming something that was just there, and was something that you could just get rid of. He was wrong; of course, because he was taken by death, and when he was he was frightened. In this short story it is evident that the source of this character’s frustration and disappointment was that he could no longer write. When Harry wrote he was free to say and feel what he wanted, this was all expressed in his writing. There were many things that had happened in his life that he wanted to write about but no longer could. This explains why Harry lashed out his wife so much; he could not write what he felt so he let it all out on the nearest person. He blamed his wife as being the one that no longer let him write. Thus, once again Ernest Hemingway illustrates that death defines the value of life. Harry’s writing is what defined his life, and after he had a meeting with death this was taken away from him. His life was taken away from him, so he had nothing to live for. All in all, it is evident that death defines the value of life. When the characters realize that death is approaching they all look at it a different way. They all do different things with their remaining time. Some use it wisely whereas others do not. Death is not the end of it all, death is the end to the lifetime that a person has just lived, but death is also the beginning of something new.

Death is that everybody will experience, but for some it is an adventure while for others it is a tragedy; it all depends on what you do with your time before leaving.

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