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Struggle With Death In The Sweet Hereafter By Russell Banks

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Often when a person suffers through a tragic loss of a loved one in his or her life they never fully recover to move on. Death is one of hardest experiences a person in life ever goes through. Only the strong minded people are the ones that are able to move on from it whereas the weak ones never recover from the loss of a loved one. In the novel The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks, character Billy Ansel – having lost his family serves as the best example of brokenness after experiencing death. Whether it is turning to substance abuse, using his memory to escape reality or using Risa Walker as a sexual escape, Billy Ansel never fully recovers from the death of his twins and his wife. This close analysis of Billy’s struggle with death becomes an important lesson for all readers. When dealing with tragedies humans believe they have the moral strength to handle them and move on by themselves but, what they do not realize is that they need someone by their side to help them overcome death. Using unhealthy coping mechanism only leads to life full of grief and depression.
One of the ways Billy shows his ineffective ways of dealing with death is by using Risa Walker as sexual escape from his daily life. For example he shows himself using Risa Walker for pleasure when he admits, “So, instead, we said, “I love you,”, and let it go at that” (Banks 40). Spending time with Risa is daily escape for Billy. It is the one time of the day where he completely forgets about the bad things that have happened in his life and focusses on Risa. Billy does not really like her but is using her for his sexual pleasure after his wife is dead. It is not like they love each other it is more like they need each other because they are both burdened with stron...

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...ho never recovered after experiencing the death of his entire family. Through substance abuse, affairs with Risa Walker, and his use of memory to escape the reality that his family is no more, he proves to be the least successful character in the novel at coping with death. The new questions then become whether or not one ever has such access in order to pull through grief, or, does someone even want to? Reading about Billy he shows us how we should not cope with death, we learn that what is needed at times like this is someone by your side, someone you can lean on, and someone to love you, all of which Billy really does not have. Most human beings do not have that someone to help them cope with death so the responsibility of moving on then falls on them. It is up to them to decide if they want to move on or live the rest of their lives replaying that tragic event.
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