April 3, 2009
Death: The Great Equalizer
Throughout all of human history, man has never been equal. The human socioeconomic landscape has always been segregated into different classes. People live their lives according to the inequality that is established by society. The only time people are truly equal is once they are done living. People are only equal in the eyes of death. No one can escape mortality. Both The Plague, by Albert Camus as translated by Stuart Gilbert, and Rashomon, by Akutagawa as translated by Jay Rubin, use setting and characterization to make clear the theme death has as the great equalizer.
The setting that is created in a piece of literature can be used to forge the theme. Both Albert Camus and Akutagawa use this literary feature to its full potential to highlight the theme that death has as the great equalizer in both of their stories. “Then he saw a number of carelessly discarded corpses...All he could see in the dim light was that some of the corpses were naked and others were clothed. Women and men seemed to be tangled together. It was hard to believe that all of them had once been living human beings, so much did they look like clay dolls, lying there with arms flung out and mouths wide open, eternally mute. Shoulders and chests and other such prominent parts caught the dim light, casting a still deeper shadows on the parts lower down” (Rashomon 5-6). The way that these dead bodies were just thrown out at the old, abandoned Rashomon implies that these corpses had no worth. In life, they could have been a very good person, who people loved; but once they died and were forgotten they were just thrown aside. A good man's body could be tossed away next to the body of a criminal. Corpses of all types were thrown together; clothed bodies next to the naked and men next to the women. They were all tangled together, completely equal because death had taken its toll. All of the deceased at the...