George Bernard Shaw and His Short Story About the Cremation of the Nar

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George Bernard Shaw and His Short Story About the Cremation of The Narrator's Mother

In a written excerpt
from a letter about the cremation of his mother,
George Bernard Shaw recalls her "passage" with humor and understanding. The dark humor associated with the horrid details of disposing of his mother's physical body are eventually reconciled with an understanding that her spirit lives on. He imagines how she would find humor in the bizarre event of her own cremation. The quality of humor unites Shaw and his mother in a bond that transcends the event of death and helps Shaw understand that her spirit will never die. The reader is also released from the horror of facing the mechanics of the cremation process when "Mama's" own comments lead us to understand that her personality and spirit will live on.

Shaw's diction is effective in conveying his mood and dramatizing the process of cremation. The traditional words of a burial service "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" are not altered for the cremation, the interior chamber "looked cool, clean, and sunny" as by a graveside, and the coffin was presented "feet first" as in a ground burial. In selecting aspects of a traditional burial service, Shaw's mood is revealed as ambivalent toward cremation by imposing recalled fragments of ground burial for contrast. Strangely fascinated, he begins to wonder exactly what happens when one is cremated. This mood of awe is dramatized as he encounters several doors to observe in his chronological investigation. He sees "a door opened in the wall," and follows the coffin as it "passed out through it and vanished as it closed," but this is not "the door of the furnace." He finds the coffin "opposite another door, a real unmistakable furnace door," but as the coffin became engulfed in flame, "the door fell" and the mystery only continues an hour later as he gazes "through an opening in the floor." As he observes two "cooks" picking through "Mama's dainty little heap...
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