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Date Created: 11/06/15
Running Head EXPLORATION Exploration of Death and Impermanence in Literature Jennifer Robinson ENG 125 Introduction to Literature Instructor Alessandra Cusimano July 1 2013 EXPLORATION 2 Exploration of Death and Impermanence in Literature Short stories and poetry are two very separate genres in the vast world that is literature Within each genre there are tools and techniques used by the writers to excite entertain move motivate and provoke thought from their readers Everyone of us responds differently to these techniques we all have our own thoughts and insights on the subject that the writer is portraying Writers tend to write about particular event that have occurred in their lives or the lives of people that they know with great and colorful detail in order to allow their readers to experience those same highs and lows and all the emotions that they or that person experienced the time it was happening Peoples differences make their interpretation of written works vary in a wide degree from one reader to another and from the author and the reader However the greatest writers are able to convey their works in the way that they want them to be received Such is the case of Dylan Thomas s Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night and Jean Rhys s I Used to Live Here Once You can understand the theme of their writings from the opening lines you can feel the emotions and they paint death and impermanence in a way that speaks to the readers in a way that is not spooky or downtrodden The concept of death and impermanence has been written about and interpreted in so many different contexts across all literary genres Comparing the short story of Jean Rhys and the poetry of Dylan Thomas by theme form content and style will allow for a deeper understanding of how death and impermanence can be expressed in literature without coming across cumbersome EXPLORATION 3 In fiction the theme is not intended to teach or preach In fact it is not presented directly at all You extract it from the characters action and setting that make up the story In other words you must figure out the theme yourself The writer39s task is to communicate on a Exploration of Death and Impermanence in Literature common ground with the reader Although the particulars of your experience may be different from the details of the story the general underlying truths behind the story may be just the connection that both you and the writer are seeking Glaspell nd The theme behind Dylan Thomas s Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night does not jump out at you but is rather interpreted through the authors writing abilities and colorful use of the English language and symbols that he provides to the reader throughout the poem The same can be said for Jean Rhys s I Used to Live Here Once her use of symbols is what connects the reader to a common human emotion History has taught us that death is morbid and sad we have seen evidence of obsession with mortality Death is something that we all have had to deal with through the loss of loved one and colleagues The idea that everything has an end has been written about in books and acted out in film repeatedly and in our effort to understand and cope with our loss we create an alternate solution for our heartache Some people write epic novels mindboggling short stories and classic poems that live on for generations The problem with dealing with impermanence in this way is that it often shows just how insecure and unaccepting of the unavoidable life changes that someone s death can bring we truly are Both Thomas and Rhys show through the theme of their writings just how vulnerable we can be and yet somehow they manage to find elegant beautiful and dignified ways to show it Each of these writers uses EXPLORATION 4 individual elements that differ from the other death and impermanence are the common theme that is expressed by both The only thing that separates these two writings is their forms I Used to Live Here Once is a short story motif told in omniscient thirdperson point of view Clugston 2010 defines a motif as a recurring theme in a literary work The recurring theme in this story is Exploration of Death and Impermanence in Literature death and acceptance Jean Rhys writes about the journey of a girl down a familiar path that leads her to places that she remembers but in a different way The author39s choice of symbols and her word play make for an interesting story One of the significant symbols in this story is the river and the stones that the narrator describes her crossing Often times dying is referred to as crossing over in much the same way as making the tough decision is often referred to as standing at a crossroad At the beginning of the story you would think that the girl is simply crossing a river but the fact that the narrator never stated that she walked across those stones to get to the other side makes the reader contemplate other ways that she could have gotten across Another symbol that the author uses is when she describes the sky It was a fine day a blue day The only thing was that the sky had a glassy look that she did not remember That was the only word she could think of Glassy Clugston 2010 When you look into glass you see a re ection or you can see clearly through it which is another thing that we think about when we discuss death and the afterlife As the story continues the narrator describes the girl see how things have changed in a place that was once very familiar to her With every change in the scenery painted by the writer and how the girl seems to not recognize or recall things changing we come to the realization that there is more to the story than what meets the eye We realize that the girl has EXPLORATION 5 passed on into the afterlife by the end of the story Jean Rhys not only explores the taboo topic of death but she also shows acceptance of the unknown that comes when one comes to the end of their life39s journey Dylan Thomas s Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night is a poem told in omniscient third person point of view until the final stanza when it changes to the first person point of view In addition the villanelle form is used a villanelle is a nineteen line poem in which every other line rhymes Types of Poetry 2005 In this poem there is a lot of symbolism used by the author to eXpress the idea of death and impermanence Some of the symbols used in this poem are the authors use of the words the night which he uses to compare the night to something dark dangerous or evil and the words the light which he uses to represent life and living Thomas uses these words to portray his feelings about living and dying and the death of his father At first reading the authors seem to be telling his readers to despise death but by the last stanza of the poem we are shown that he is referring to his feelings of rage for his father being in the ending stage of his life The symbols in each of these writing tell us what the writers are trying to convey Though the message that each author is conveying through the use of symbols are different the theme remains the same that death is inevitable but the way we choose to embrace that unknown is of our know making Content is a common element shared within both short stories and poetry The content is usually carefully developed using images symbols imaginative detail and other writing techniques to add clarity to the authors underlying concepts found in their works Clugston 2010 The content that is what draws the readers in and makes what the author is trying to convey connect in some way The theme of death and impermanence is shared by both of these works but the authors use the content to of the writings in different ways to support their theme EXPLORATION 6 Both writings present death in different ways In Dylan Thomas s poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night he uses nighttime as a metaphor for death and he is in turmoil over his father s willing acceptance dying Thomas wants is father to fight death or as he writes Rage rage against the dying of the light Thomas is seeing his father slowly wither away before him and he yearns for the vibrancy that his father once had but he knows that death is unavoidable Thomas uses four different types of men who rage against their inevitable end the wise men Exploration of Death and Impermanence in Literature the good men the wild men and the grave men The four are a broad spectrum of men that one might find worthy of emulating and Thomas hopes that his father will show the same resiliency as they have to his inevitable end It is human nature to want to hold on to those who are dear to use We almost instinctively struggle to preserve their life even when we know that their fate has been While Thomas wants his father to fight death the content in Jean Rhys I Used to Live Here Once delivers the theme of death in an entire different way In Rhys short story she describes the journey of a girl across a river and down a familiar path that leads to a house where children are playing in the yard She eventually reveals that the girl used to live in the house and she also provides many clues throughout the story to help the reader draw the conclusion that the girl has died Rhys is able to lead the readers to this conclusion without spelling out but rather taking you on the journey of discovery with the girl The reader is first told that the girl is standing at a river looking at the stones then after describing each stone she is suddenly standing on the other side of the river In many literary pieces as well in regular conversation dying is EXPLORATION 7 referred to as crossing over in much the same way as making the tough decision is often referred to as standing at a crossroad Rhys also writes about the way that the girl sees the things that she is familiar with but they look different to her She establishes the fact that the girl s reality is askew and that this is simply a re ection of her former life Each of the changes in this story brings along the realization that over time things must and will change The girl in the story is not unsettled by the changes that she is encountering but rather perplexed that such changes have happened in the time that she was away In the end the girl is calling out to the children in the yard but they do not hear her Rhys ends the story with the line That was the first time she knew Rhys 1976 Unlike Dylan Thomas poem Do Not Go Down Into That Good Exploration of Death and Impermanence in Literature Night Rhys short story shows acceptance of death instead of fighting a non winning fight When you think about the content in both Rhys short story and Thomas Poem you see that yes they are both about death and impermanence but they are also similar in the way that they both convey acceptance of the inevitable In Dylan Thomas s poem his father was accepting of his faith just like the girl in Jean Rhys short story Style is another element present in both of these literary works In poetry the style is determined largely by the poets choice and use of words Some words are suited to a formal style others contribute to an informal style Clugston 2010 Thomas39s verbal style used in the poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night plays against strict verse forms His images are carefully ordered in a patterned sequence and his major theme of unity of all life and the continuing process of life versus death and new life that links generations C Nagaraju K V EXPLORATION 8 Seshaiah 2012 Like poetry there are different styles of the short series Jean Rhys used a dramatic style of storytelling in her short story I Used To Live Here Once While death and impermanence have been written about and interpreted in many different contexts in literature comparing the short story of Jean Rhys and the poetry of Dylan Thomas by theme form context and style allow for a deeper understanding of how death and impermanence can be expressed in literature without coming across cumbersome Although both writings shared a similar theme and they both used symbolism and vivid descriptions to relate the reader to their theme there were also many similarities between each of these pieces The words and symbols that were used in each of these writings were very different for instance the use of light to represent life in Dylan Thomas poem and the children playing to represent life in Exploration of Death and Impermanence in Literature Jean Rhys short story both lead us to the author39s idea of life The shared theme between these two writings also shows some differences in each piece that the author addresses Such as in Thomas s poem the issue is not accepting death and in Rhys s short story she writes more about accepting and realizing death The similarities and differences between each of these pieces are clear and make the theme in each all the more significant It is not hard to compare these two literary pieces Both are easy to appreciate and timeless classics that have both sparked conversations and debates they have also in uenced many writers EXPLORATION References Clugston R W 2010 Journey into Literature San Diego CA Bridgepoint Education Inc Retrieved from httpscontentashfordedubooksAUENG125 102 Glaspell S nd Analyzing Theme Annenberg Learner Retrieved from http WWW1earner org interactive s literatureread theme 1 html Examples of Poetry and Structure of Poetry 2005 October Retrieved June 29 2013 from httpWWWtypesofpoetryorguk EXPLORATION 10 Thomas Dylan Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night Literature and Society An Introduction to Fiction Poetry Drama Nonfiction Eds Pamela J Annas and Robert C Rosen 4th Ed Upper Saddle River Prentice Hall 2006 194 Nagaraju C amp Seshaiah KV2012 A Study of Dylan Thomas s Poetry IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science IOSRJHSS 12 0610 Retrieved from httpWWWiosrj ournalsorg
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