Rhet Essay

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Death: a recurring theme in world’s literature throughout time. Some authors convey it as an escape, relief, whereas some are scared of it. Regardless of the symbolism of death when looked at history, from Steinbeck to Shakespeare, to Homer, a lot of the legendary and not so legendary writers use it in their works at one point or another. Mostly, death is related to some kind of emotion in literary works. Two of the good examples for how death can be woven into an essay are Death of a Moth by Annie Dillard and Chronicle of an American Execution by Dan Barry. One talks about death almost reverently, while the other merely recognizes the fact that it exists.

Annie Dillard, in her Death of a Moth essay, starts talking about death without beating around the bush. She starts her story indicating that she is lonely, and moves on to talking about insects. “Her little outfit reminded me of a moth I helped kill” (Norton Sampler, p. 2) she says when she is making an observation of a spider that inhabits her bathroom, and then moves on to talking about the corpses of bugs that litter her bathroom floor and manages to come across as completely indifferent to the deaths of animals. The quotation about helping to kill the moth sounds like an achievement from her side.

The way she approaches death has a tone of admiration to it. Before actually getting to the part about how the moth died, Dillard focuses on death as an inanimate form and not as the cycle of life. The emotion that heavily influences her at this point of the essay is the inability to empathize. “And the moths, the empty moths, stagger against each other, headless, in a confusion of arching sprints of chitin like peeling varnish, like a jumble of buttresses for cathedral domes, like nothing resembling moths…”(p.2-3) Here, she sees the dead bodies merely as corpses, inanimate objects, as if they have never lived. The words that underline her lack of empathy are ‘empty’, ‘nothing’ and ‘headless’. At first...