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Confronting Death in Poetry

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Confronting Death in Poetry

Raised fists and a fading smile usually follow the confrontation of death as we experience the first stages of denial in the grieving process. We not only grieve at the loss of a loved one, but at the loss of our own life as well. When death rears its ugly head, it demands this response. Whether through art or science, humor or ritual, mankind marks and confronts this passage with both defiance and trepidation that eventually turns into acceptance and submission.

The fear of death seems to be based on two things: the finality of death and the uncertainty of what follows. Many works have been written on the topic, some to offer consolation, others hope, and still others to urge readers to correct their behavior during life itself. The conflicting views put forward by different societies may never be reconciled, since nobody comes back to tell of an afterlife.

Robert Frost successfully delineates this process in his poem, "Out, Out -" as he describes how the boy in the poem experiences the first stage of impending death - that of denial. Frost paints a picture of school age children doing the household chores of adults. Death with children is especially disturbing because in our unconscious mind we are all immortal, so it is almost inconceivable to be openly confronted with the reality of death. For children, this thought is especially implausible because of their youth. It is much easier to turn our attention to less frightening possibilities. The boy states this to his sister after crying out in a rueful laugh, "Don't let him cut my hand off / The doctor. When he comes. Don't let him sister!" (Frost 25, 26)

Step two and three of the grieving processes when confronting impending de...

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...od's eternal reward.

All three authors deal with and do a good job of portraying the stages of grief that impending death brings, no matter what form it comes in. There are allusions in all three poems of earlier years when life and death were narrower spans in time than they are today as our life expectancies rise. A true sign of the times each author lived in.

Bibliography:

Work Cited

Dickinson, Emily. "I heard a Fly buzz - when I died." The Norton Anthology of

American Literature. Ed. Francis Murphy. New York: Norton and Company,

1995. 1138.

Robinson, Edwin Arlington. "Richard Cory." The Norton Anthology of American

Literature. Ed. Francis Murphy. New York: Norton and Company, 1995. 1730.

Frost, Robert. "Out, Out -." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Francis

Murphy. New York: Norton and Company, 1995. 1774.
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