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Thinking about Death - Research Paper Example

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Brief 603984 Thinking about Death The works chosen for this analysis focus on the process of memorisation, and the way it contributes to a greater understanding of what one has lost. The artistic works I have chosen—Henry James’ Beast in the Jungle, W Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues’, and Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’—all provide different negotiations of this theme…
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Thinking about Death

Download file to see previous pages... However, as we shall see, this is modulated very differently in all three examples. Section 1: Henry James, loss and self-actualisation. The critical apogee of Henry James’ story, The Beast in the Jungle, comes only moments from the end in which the protagonist comes to understand himself. The self-awareness that John Marcher develops is critically, and inextricably, linked to the death of Mary Bartram. By connecting Mary’s death with Marcher’s epiphanies about his own life, the realisation of loss, ironically, becomes about the discovery of self-knowledge and the truth about life itself. The story of Marcher’s and Bartram’s relationship is defined by Marcher’s belief that he has an unusual fate: to die by some catastrophic event, what he terms ‘the beast in the Jungle’. It is for this reason that he decides that he will attempt to protect others and himself by not falling in love with others, or developing a deep connection with someone. This fate is developed throughout the novella and then finally achieved in the final moments of the work, when Marcher comes to understand his failure to connect to another person. ...
... He saw the Jungle of his life and saw the lurking Beast; then, while he looked, perceived it, as by a stir of the air, rise, huge and hideous, for the leap that was to settle him. His eyes darkened--it was close; and, instinctively turning, in his hallucination, to avoid it, he flung himself, face down, on the tomb.’ (James, The Beast in the Jungle) Instinctively, the reference to throwing himself down on his tomb points out the connection between Mary’s death and his achievement of his fate. Mary’s death is intimately connected to the acquisition of self-knowledge. He comes to understand, and in that moment achieves, his fate. The loss of Mary at this point becomes then the catastrophic event in his life; he realises what he has lost at the last, and is pained by it. Just as he comes to understand his fate, he comes to understand the way in which he and Mary had lived, and his ultimate failure in life. He comes to understand that his life was a solipsistic one. Marcher’s life is detached—detached from human connections, from the emotions and the intensity of profound connection that defines Mary’s life. This is expressed in a number of ways. Recall for instance his inability, in the opening scene of section 1, to remember his earlier meetings with Mary. (It is also expressed in the third person perspective of the narrator, for example.) The consequences of this solipsistic, detached life are brought home to him in the final scenes when faced with Mary’s death. She had offered him an escape from his fate: ‘The escape would have been to love her; then, THEN he would have lived. SHE had lived--who could say now with what passion?—since she had loved him for himself; whereas he had never thought of her (ah how ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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