C) ENG 3U0 Sweet Hereafter Essay
Tragedy is inevitable; it affects all human beings at one point or another. Russell Banks illustrates this universal truth brilliantly in “The Sweet Hereafter.” Bank’s characters, Billy Ansel, Nicole Burnell and Dolores Driscoll all face tragedy, and all gain insight into themselves. However, not all characters react to tragedy consistently. To some this is beneficial, although to others this is the greatest tragedy of all.
Billy Ansel deals with tragedy consistently throughout the entirety of the novel. However, his consistent coping methods leave him hopeless and alone. Ansel experiences death and terror at the age of nineteen while fighting in Vietnam. He believes that because terrible things had happened to him while at war, it was impossible for terrible things to happen to him now. Unfortunately, Billy is quite mistaken, as he loses his wife, Lydia to cancer, and then eventually his children to a tragic bus accident. “But lying half drunk in the darkness in that king-sized bed in my house on the hill…I’d imagine Risa Walker naked and ecstatic, and it positively thrilled me.” (Banks 62) After the death of his wife, Ansel begins to abuse alcohol regularly in order to anaesthetize his pain, as well as fantasizes about, and eventually conducts an affair with a married woman. His alcohol abuse is a quick fix and easy escape, as he knows no other way to deal with grief. He becomes lonely and sexually frustrated, although he knows that no real good will come by sleeping with Risa. Against his better judgment, he chooses to anyways. After the death of his children Billy continues to choose unconstructive coping methods when dealing with tragedy. He isolates himself, avoids the help of neighbours and loved ones and finally, abuses alcohol habitually and more heavily. He is imprisoned within his memories. “…I can sit in my living room alone, looking at the glass of the picture window with the reflection and drink in my...
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