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Death and Dying in Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms Essay

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Death is, perhaps, the most universal of themes that an author can choose to write of. Death comes to all things; not so love, betrayal, happiness, or suffering. Each death is certain, but each is also unique. In Other Voices, Other Rooms, Truman Capote addresses several deaths, and each is handled in its individual fashion. From the manner of the death to its effect on those it touches, Capote crafts vignettes within the story to give the reader a very different sense of each one.
The events in the novel are predicated upon the death of Joel's mother. The account of his mother's death and the upheaval it caused for him (p 10 ) is more poignant to a reader who has experienced the untimely death of a parent than to one who has not. The reader who has experienced the loss can identify with everyone “always smiling” and with the unexplainable changes in one's own behavior toward others as one adjusts to the emptiness.
Mr. Sansom's letter gives the appearance that her death led him to “assume [his] paternal duties.” Joel is not an orphan, and need not rely on the charity of his aunt. Bringing him to Skully's Landing to live with his natural father seems the ideal solution. Sansom's letter does not give the impression that he is terribly “broken up” by the death. Saddened and sympathetic, maybe, but not devastated, by any means.
Nowhere in the passage, however, are the words “death,” “die,” or “dying” mentioned. Instead, it is the shriveling of the tangerines (p 10) that symbolize her passing. Again, in Edward Sansom's letter to Joel's Aunt Ellen (p 7), the death is not written of as such. Rather, it is referred to as “my late wife's passing.” In fact, Capote euphamizes death in the entire first part of the book. ...


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...dealing with death in its many guises. After the Civil War, the plantations, Southern belles, and slave quarters were all still there. The way of life that gave rise to these things was gone, though. There was a futility to the genteel class' struggle to redefine who and what it was. “This is … a genre of love and loss. In the end, purity of heart rarely overpowers desperation.” (Oprah) What is more desperate than coping with death?

Works Cited
Capote, Truman. Other Voices, Other Rooms. New York: Random House, 1975
"Southern gothic." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 15 Aug. 2009 .

“Southern gothic.” Oprah's Book Club. 2009. Harpo Productions, Inc. 15 Aug. 2009


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