Losing a loved one is hard for any and every one, and coping with the loss is a big mission. In the Sweet Hereafter- a novel by Russell Banks- after a terrible bus crash occurs, resulting in the death of 14 children, many of the town’s people isolate themselves due to their loss and grief. Through the many different narrators, the author of this book shows how grief affects different people in different ways. One of the people affected by this tragic accident, Billy Ansel (also one of the narrators), copes with the loss by becoming an alcoholic. He doesn’t take anyone’s sympathy and stays in his home.
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.