In the essay “Death in the Open” Lewis Thomas talks about the dead animals he finds on the side of the road and how he feels about such death. Life is about leaving an impression in one way or another. Death is a reflection on what a person has done in the world. Thomas’ feelings towards death is sadness and anger because of the way he reacts towards dead animals on the side of the road, how he feels about life as a whole is a positive feeling, and how he thinks animals deal with death. When the author sees death in the open, he feels as though it a reminder of death. This is proven when he reacts by seeing a dead animal on the side of the road. Thomas says, “[t]he outrage is more than just the location; it is the impropriety of such visible death, anywhere” (Thomas 534). This shows that just by witnessing death of another living animal the author feels anger because this dead animal is a reminder that one day he will die. When the author talks about life he has a slightly different tone. Thomas says, “[i]f it were not for the constant renewal and replacement going on before your eyes, the whole place would turn to stone and sand under your feet” (Thomas 534). This shows that even though he views the world as a place where living creatures die on a constant basis but to the author life is able to defeat death by reproducing and never giving up. He gives this example when he talks about single cells. Thomas says, “[t]here are some creatures that do seem to die at all; they simply vanish totally into their own progeny. Single cells do this” (Thomas 535). He goes on to explain how the cell first starts as just one but then multiplies itself into two then four and so on. This demonstrate the author's amazement of life, the cell doesn't die but just reproduces with itself to make more life. Thomas also wrote about how death is also well hidden in most cases. At the begging of the essay he talks about dead animals on the road and how it makes him upset, although he admits that many animals die and there remains are hardly seen in plain view. He says “[a]nimals seem to have an instinct for performing death alone, hidden. Even the largest, most conspicuous ones find ways to conceal themselves in time” (Thomas 534). He goes on to say how some animals deal with death, for example Thomas said “if an elephant missteps and dies the herd will not leave him there; the others will pick him up and carry the body from place to place, finally putting it down in some inexplicably suitable location” (Thomas 534). This shows that even though we may think dealing with death is a human attribute it is also possible for other species to feel the same way. The author also wrote another essay about life called “The World’s Biggest Membrane”. In this essay Thomas also feels as though life was given to us by luck. He states we are lucky to have oxygen in the air to breathe, he even talks about how important it was when life first began to form. He says, “there were two such explosion of new life, like vast embryologic transformation, both dependent on the threshold levels of oxygen” (Thomas 537). This shows that he not only appreciates life but also understands its value, which is why he even talks about how the luck we have oxygen. He says, “[i]t is another illustration of our fantastic luck that oxygen filter out the very bands of ultraviolet light that are most devastating for nucleic acids and proteins, while allowing full penetration of the visible light needed for photosynthesis” (Thomas 537). He demonstrates his perception on how rare and complex life is. When the Tomas talks about not only the oxygen in the air but how it protects us from dangerous lights while letting in safe visible light to help plants with their photosynthesis. So as one can see the author feelings towards death is sadness and anger because of the way he reacts towards dead animals on the side of the road because it reminds him of his imminent death. Although, his feelings about life as a whole are positive because he sees life fighting off death as never giving up. He also sees that humans are not the only species that deal with death, but others as well.
Thomas, Lewis. “Death in the Open” The Norton Book of Nature Writing. Robert Finch and John Elder. College ed. New York; W.W. Norton and Company, 2002. 533-535. Print. Thomas, Lewis. “The World’s Biggest Membrane” The Norton Book of Nature Writing. Robert Finch and John Elder. College ed. New York; W.W. Norton and Company, 2002. 536-538. Print.