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Trauma and Death in World Literature and Films Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Mar 1st, 2022

The themes of trauma and death unite the novel “The Day of the Locust” by Nathaniel West, the short story “Grief” by Scholastique Mukasonga, and the short film The Neighbors ‘Window by Marshall Curry. The stories have different settings, narration, and characters, but they all show the moments of misery and helplessness in human lives. The three stories illustrate how despair is changing people’s perceptions and self-awareness.

In the final scene of “The Day of the Locust,” the reader sees the agitated mob of desperate people who feel tricked after spending their whole lives performing boring responsibilities to save for retirement. They come to spend their old years in California, and the main character, Todd Hackett, says they come to “die in California” (West). These people are traumatized since their whole lives went by in meaningless efforts, and now, in the face of impending death, they lose their human form when they become part of the crowd.

This crowd is a symbol of the emotional pain that the main characters experience. Its strength grows from the fact that more people are pouring into its body. And it wants only one thing – violence, pulling the main character into its tide. The other traumatized character is Homer Simpson; the very presence of evil, which the crowd symbolizes, the strength and proximity of this evil drives Homer crazy and pushes him to murder a child.

The central theme of the “Grief” is the suffering of an unnamed woman who comes to her home village to find out that her father was killed by fanatics committing genocide against the Tutsi people in Rwanda. The bones of the murdered, stored in bags in the church, and scattered in the backyard of the woman’s house, symbolize her roots, her ancestors. The reader becomes a witness to the despair of a woman, whose dignity was symbolically trampled into the mud into which the murderers plunged the victims’ remains. However, the heroine manages to cope with fear thanks to faith, which is symbolized by the flame of the night lamp.

The light from the lamp drives away terrible shadows, and the heroine falls asleep unconscious. The church watchman who visits the heroine the next morning gives her hope and becomes as if one of her relatives. The guard convinces the heroine that she can free herself from what happened after she went through hell and saw everything with her eyes. Her loved ones are not in the desecrated remains but in her heart, and they will always be there, showing the right path. The heroine takes a sip of the bitter beer that the guard offers her and symbolically shares this drink with the dead, which gives her relief. Just like Todd Hackett, the heroine manages to survive.

Further, the short film The Neighbors’ Window presents the story of two couples who live in houses opposite each other. A couple with children is desperately jealous of the freedom of the younger couple. However, after a while, the young husband falls ill and dies, leaving the heroine from the “neighbor’s window” alone. The heroines get to know each other and learn that they watched each other, and life in the window seemed ideal for both women. In this film, the window symbolizes someone else’s life and the light that this life radiates. The death of the husband from the younger couple is a symbol of the inconstancy of life and the fact that no one is immune from the blows of fate. Thus, the three stories show despair, which the heroes of the last two stories overcome with faith, and the heroes of the first story fail to overcome.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Trauma and Death in World Literature and Films." March 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/trauma-and-death-in-world-literature-and-films/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Trauma and Death in World Literature and Films'. 1 March.

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