Death and Impermanence
I chose to write my comparison of the two stories under the theme of Death and Impermanence. I chose death because of the unknowns of death and how people face their fears and accept death, how people go through their ending days and facing their everlasting time with God. I chose “Dog’s Death” by John Updike (1993) and “Used to live Here” by Jean Rhys (1976). One is a poem and one is a short story and they are about death, which makes them similar to each other, but at the same time different. How the poem and the story show how they cope with death and facing their choices in life and is there life after death. How they experience the unknown. “Death-life comes to an end, the total and permanent cessations of all vital functions” www.dictionary.com “Impermanence-not permanent or enduring transitory” www.dictionary.com “Transitory-lasting only short time-brief short-lived; temporary. Not lasting enduring permanent or eternal. www.dictionary.com, I use these words, to show what death and Impermanence mean, as the poem and story are about death. How do they cope with death? In the story “Used to Live here Once” (J.Rhys, 1976) the girl in the story was dead and she was by the river looking at stepping stones and each one was probably representing her life. “There was the round unsteady stone, the pointed stone, the float one in the middle-the safe stone where you can stand and look around. The next one wasn’t so safe for when the river was full the water flowed over it and even when it showed dried it was slippery”. (J.Rhys, 1976) I feel that everyone after dying has to reflect on their life and the time they spent on earth. As she was stepping on the stones as she was crossing the river she was reflecting on her past life. Each one of these stones might have represented a certain time in her life. But to get to the other side of the river she had to step on these stones, and reflect on her life that had already passed on to the eternal life. Some people may do this while they are still living, but some may not have that chance and in their after life, will reflect on them before passing over to the other side. In the story of “Dog’s Death” by John Updike, (1993) it is about the father telling the story of their family dog’s death. The reader’s don’t know he is talking about his dog dying until you read “We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction. The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver. As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin and her heart was learning to lie down forever.” (J.Updike, 1993) Basically in this story it isn’t about how they cope with dying, but how they didn’t know their pet was dying until it was really too late, and how the puppy was a “good dog” even up to the end of his life. “The final lines in Updike’s poem create an initial feeling of sympathy, which is likely to become empathy if the reader reflects on the dog’s predicament in not being able to communicate its final struggle.” (R.W. Clugston, 2010) Here are the final lines to that story. “Back home, we found that in the night her frame, drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame of diarrhea and had dragged across the floor to a newspaper.” (J.Updike, 1993)
So in the poem and the short story, the girl reflects on her past life as the father sympathizes with the death of their family dog. Facing their choices in life; “Used to Live Here Once” I feel she made her choice to cross over when she decided to cross the river and reflection on her life with the stepping stones, she may not been sure of her decision she made while crossing over but she seemed happy and everything seemed to be brighter or as she said “glassy”. This was the only word she could think of. “ The paths that she had once known were bare with no pavement and seemed to be much wider than she had remembered. “Yet it was the same road and she walked along feeling extraordinarily happy.” She was starting her new journey but not...
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