The Theme of Death in A Death in the Family, The Bear, and Wise Blood

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How does the concept of death link characters together in and between books? In all three books; “A death in the family” by James Agee, “The Bear” by William Faulkner and “Wise Blood” by Flannery O'Connor the theme of death disclosed all over. This theme creates strong forces that bring characters together to mourn with the affected individuals. For instance, in the book “A death in the family” by James Agee we meet one of the characters James Follett who had two children; Rufus and Catherine. He was involved in a bad accident and died instantly (Agee chapter 8). Mary, the wife of James, was called and informed about the incidence, and she was frightened by the terrifying news.

 James death brings family members together and also family friends to console the affected family. For example, Mary’s relatives gather at her house on that night of demise to console her from the grief she was undergoing(Agee chapter 9-11). For her brother, Andrew and family friend Walter Starr took the responsibility of visiting the scene on behalf of Mary to avoid her seeing the real picture of the incidence. Aunt Hannah took responsibility of comforting her and also taking care of the children while Mary’s father told her he would support her financially. The family members and family friends expressed their domestic love through supporting Mary’s family.

In the second book “The Bear” by William Faulkner Isaac and Sam’s father were among the main characters who were great hunters (Faulkner pg 127). Their main aim was to kill the bear that had escaped death from several hunters, and that brought all characters together to find the means of killing the Old Ben (the bear). Sam and Isaac had a dog which they named Lion to show bravery. The Lion and Boon collaborated to kill their enemy Old Ben of which they did. The struggle was tuff, and after the death of Old Ben, Boon and lion suffered more injuries which later lead to the death of Lion. The friends hold the burial ceremony with the Generals Compson reading the lion’s eulogy as a brave dog. McCaslin was also in the burial of the brave dog among other friends who is the main character (Isaac).

The last book “Wise Blood” by Flannery O'Connor we encounter one of the major character Hazel Motes who was brought up deeply in religion as he was a grandson of the preacher(O’Connor chapter 1-2). He recalls the death of his father and his brother who had died earlier before him going for a military mission of World War II. He also dreams of his mother while on the train imagining her coffin which was clear indication that he missed his family members that why he kept on remembering them. He had no family to keep him company or to share his feeling with, but rather he was lonely.

Compare and contrast how the problem of faith is seen through the eyes of different characters within and between books

In the book “A death in the family” by James Agee, the act of faith is evident in the book. For example, Andrew argued that the presence of a butterfly at the coffin was the sign of life continuity of James believing they are another life after death while on the other hand Rufus and Catherine find it difficult to believe that since they never knew the concept of death (Agee chapter 20). Agee believed that prayers were vital in Mary’s life since it gives her strength, but on the other hand, Father Jackson denies Mary full prayer service since her husband failed to get baptized(Agee chapter20).

While in the “Wise Blood” by Flannery O’ Conner, characters seem to hold different beliefs. For instance, Hazel Motes holds the role of preaching, unlike other characters. He establishes a church without Christ while in the real sense Christ is the symbol of the church ( O’Connor chapter 7). He does all this to prove the nonexistence of Jesus but contrary to his practices, he believes the existence of sins, and once you’ve sinned you should confess and be forgiven. Enoch on the other hand also did not believe in Jesus, but he was against false idols which shows that he was pretending not know the right way of religion.

 “The Bear” by William Faulkner believed that the bear which had survived so many deaths was a symbol of tribal god which required Godly chosen person to bring it down ( Faulkner pg 129-130). Ike (Isaac) was a pure boy who was believed to be the chosen one, and he uses his knowledge to kill the bear which was a threat to the people. The bear couldn’t get killed by traps and guns they believed the use of nonhuman methods could only eliminate it. Even the elder people like Sam father had tried to hunt the Old Ben (the bear) without killing it. They believed the bear was to be killed by Ike since he is the chosen person.

Work Cited

Agee, James. A Death in the Family. Penguin, 2009.

Faulkner, William. Three famous short novels: Spotted horses; Old man; The bear. Vintage, 2011.

O'Connor, Flannery. Wise Blood. Macmillan, 1962.

November 24, 2023



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