Death and dying are situations that humans have always known off and yet it has never been fully understood. In order to establish an approach to the topic, the essay will examine and analyze representations of death and dying in the works of Mark Z. Danielewski’s 50 Year Sword and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. By comparing the manner in which the two texts employ literary devices enable the reader and the authors to comprehend and address the topic. There exists no reliable information on death as an experience hence emphasizing the nature of death as being both secretive and mysterious.
Therefore, people need to value dying in other forms like through the watching it and advocate the death of others around them, together with the help of fiction. What people seek in fiction, be it the writers or readers or the audience, is the knowledge of death that we cannot get in real life. The relationship between death, dying and literature is explored through by seeking answers to questions such as; what contributions can literature make to the existential concerns related to death as an experience that is characteristically private and an actual loss of lives? And can literature help people face or conceive that which is the most definitive of all endings?
Literary texts can help in the discovery of different approaches to death and imagining it from observing it in different viewpoints.
There are literary genres like lamentations and elegies that are written for the sole purpose of a reaction to the loss of person or object that was dear to someone once.
Literature can act as a way of consoling those who are suffering. In Mark Z. Danielewski’s 50 Year Sword and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the theme of death and dying is explored in a variety of ways. For instance, Mary (15), sees the miracle of birth as being haunted by the brutality of death as seen from her perspective. The four ‘squares’ of the book, Victor, the monster, the cottages, and Walter all encounter death and sorrow at one point or the other. By using real-life examples of people and associating the suffering of death and dying as an experience that can also be felt by objects or non-humans, Mary expresses the mystery of death. Mark Z. Danielewski’s 50 Year Sword also employs the use of various other characters to express how different people perceive death and handle the pain and grief that follows (Mark, 123).
There is always malice that is associated with death as some phenomenon that comes to snatch what people treasure and in turn relish in their anguish. In The Fifty-Year Sword, the storyteller captivates the audience with a story of a long black box that is set before them (Mark, 126). However, soon after a fateful dare that is made turns the events of a rather entertaining story time session into consequences that had been retold and now are going to be experienced. Similarly, Walter in Frankenstein has a quest for the north pole, a seemingly joyous endeavor that he seeks to follow through. However, he is forced to abandon this quest when faced with the monster and forced to watch as his newly found friend, Victor, dies (Mary, 64).
Plots in classical tragedy rely on the suffering and the drama that more often than not ends with the death of the tragic hero. This combined with the development of some kind of self –recognition. In tragic literary works, the existence of the hero in a meaningful way is paradoxically created through the hero. Death is a useful tool that is employed in the literature. Apart from providing the reader with fictional encounters with death, the stories also employ death in the narrations as a way of creating emotional effects, twists in the plot, suspense, and mystery. While the five orphans are being entertained by the storyteller about the story of how ‘he is a bad man with a very black heart, (Mark,46)’ the story twists just after the ending of the narration to the next phase.
By having the words ‘somewhere else (Mark, 47) are on a page of their own. The emphasis of giving the deathly experiences in the previous page time to sink in by having blank pages serves to show the impact that death and dying have on people. Similarly, Frankenstein takes Victor through a roller-coaster of emotions by having him face multiple deaths of close friends and family before taking his life (Mary, 52). Indeed, the experience of death can never be understood in real life. However, the various experiences that fictional characters undergo and the manner in which they handle themselves help us in forming a hypothetical scenario for our reactions if it ever happens to people, animals or objects we care about.
The literary descriptions of death are not concerned with the creation of painful scenes of dying or individual loss, but death as a concept can be understood in a bigger perspective as a place where various fantasies and projections and metaphorical representation of many social issues. The idea of people resurrecting from death is a metaphorical representation that is explored by Mark Z. Danielewski’s 50 Year Sword and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. For instance, ‘he is following a path into the mountains, where his fellow climbers, trapped in bad weather, pop up all over the mountain, always and swept away by mist before reappearing again somewhere else (Mark, 125).’ The representation of his friends as reappearing from the dead is a metaphorical device employed to imply that there can be life after death, an idea touted by religion in society. Much of the conflict in Frankenstein is created by the monster (Mary, 73).
Therefore, in literature the existence of death can be in many forms: it can be part of the narration, the metaphors and character traits, and imagery. However, it reaches out of the realms of literature and engages in discussions about death-related issues in society and emotions that can be relatable to the reader. It is through literature that memories of past lives can be retained and gives immortality and continuity to them. In fact, literature is a form of immortality as the various texts live through the narrations they tell and find a new generation of readers long after the time they were authored just like the classical works of Mark Z. Danielewski’s 50 Year Sword and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Thus far the various dimensions and meanings that the authors intend to put across have been explored in the essay.