Interpretative Literary Critical Essay on Truman Capote’s “Miriam”: the Theme of Death in the Story

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"Miriam" is a short story written by Truman Capote, originally published in June 1945 in Mademoiselle magazine. First edition in solo book form was published in 1981 under the title Miriam: A Classic Story of Loneliness. It is a story about an old lady, Mrs. Miller. One day, she meets a girl who is also called Miriam and this girl starts to invade Mrs. Miller’s stereotypic life. Mrs. Miller does not like it but she finds out that there is nothing she can do about it. The end of the story is open and there are a lot of symbols in the story so the readers can come up with many possible interpretations.

This essay will focus on the theme of death in this story. There are lot of symbols connected to Mrs. Miller’s preparation for death and it allows us the interpretation of this story dealing with oncoming death and its connection with the small girl.

Viewed in this way, Miriam is something supernatural, not necessarily a ghost but definitely a herald of death. It seems like she is changing her personality according to the gender and name of her next “victim” but always looks unearthly – her silver-white hair, fragile body construction, eyes lacking any childlike quality, strange clothes. This suggests that Miriam is a kind of ghost because nobody else than Mrs. Miller can see her – for example when the man is looking for her in Mrs. Miller’s apartment and even the people in the theatre would stare at such a strange child.

Another aspect to consider is the preparation for death, represented by Mrs. Miller’s behavior in the story. She is used to live a stereotypical life and because of that, she is curious in the beginning when she meets Miriam because it seems like an upcoming change in her life. They are both called Miriam which Mrs. Miller finds funny. Miriam, in reaction, said “Moderately.” She knows the real reason of her name – she is Mrs. Miller’s own death herald so she has the same name to be familiar for her and make her departure from this world more...
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