Death and Impermanence

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Death and Impermanence

ENG 125
Instructor: Macy Dailey
September 05, 2011

This paper focuses on the similarities and differences of the representation of death and the impermanence in the short story “A Father’s Story” by Andre Dubus, and the poem “Because I could not stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson.” The reader finds two authors who are different, but produces a mental picture of death in the short story and poem. In “A Father’s Story” the main character in the story is the father who ignores his religious belief in order to protect his daughter from the consequences of killing a man with her car. However, in the poem “Because I could not stop for Death,” the author displays how the main character accepted death as a friend and a part of life until the end. The short story discuss the character’s life before it yields into the talk of death; however, the poem talks of death right at the beginning of the poem. The two pieces of literature imply an acceptance of the inevitability of death by both authors. Death, in these two pieces of literature, is more than just absence of the soul from the body. In the poem and the short story, there are three types of death experiences represented: emotional death, spiritual death, and physical death. Exploring these different kinds of death experiences shows similarities and differences between the two pieces of literature. The inevitability of death and the emotions involved are described in both of these pieces.

“A Father’s Story” begins describing the life of the Catholic character Luke Ripley, or what remains of it after losing his wife and children to an obviously bitter divorce. This represents the emotional death experience in the short story. He describes the feeling of loneliness and pain of being in the house all alone with no family. He explains the aggravation in knowing that, being a catholic, he could not fill that void in his life with love of another woman because his faith teaches that he can’t marry twice. He goes on and on about how good life was in the days when he and his wife Gloria were together and his family was intact. He speaks as if the life, hope, and simplicity of life left with his wife and children in that U-Haul all those years ago. Luke is dead emotionally and lives with the regret that his marriage didn’t work and he had to stay single for the rest of his life. He confessed to the sin of fornication, which he openly admitted he willingly committed on two different occasions with two different women whom he did not love (as if love matters in the case of a lonely, divorced, Catholic man). Luke’s emotional death is triggered not by the divorce or the lack of a family life, but by the Catholic dogma that once divorced, a Catholic believer can’t remarry, which eliminated all hope of loving again or picking up the broken pieces of his life and moving on happily with someone else. Luke’s emotional death is seen as clearly as his sharp sense of self-awareness throughout this short story.

Luke later describes the frustrations of trying to live up to the expectations of being a “true Catholic (Clugston, 2010).” He explains that being a true Catholic is too hard and how he has never come across real saintliness, giving the synopsis that until the pope sells his house and everything in it, he would never respect a pope. He struggles trying to balance concentration in mass at St. John’s Church and thinking about what other things are going on outside the church. This represents spiritual death experience in the short story. Conversely to the open confession that being a real Catholic is too hard, it is obvious that he, because of ritual praying and habitual talking to God every morning that he has some kind of interest in knowing God on a personal level but because of the spiritual ineptitude, he is unable to live up to the standards that the Catholic church has set for the religion of Catholicism. His companionship with Father Paul (who is...
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