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“What the Dead Know” Analysis Essay

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Updated: Aug 18th, 2022

Manuel Martinez’s short fictional story “What the Dead Know” invites the reader to imagine if dead people could be massively resurrected. According to the plot, this process started suddenly in hospitals for an unknown reason and continued for twenty-seven months. People who returned from the dead did not see any mystery in this situation; however, it caused significant disturbances to their families and the scientific community.

The latter began investigating the inciting event for the wave of resurrections and discovered that the new particle accelerator caused the event. When society became uncomfortable with their behavior and a different attitude to life, the scientists developed a method to send all of them back. Martinez’s story demonstrates the conflict between the brutal honesty of the resurrected dead and the unprepared minds of the living, who were unable to reject the established societal rules.

Such supernatural incidents as described in this story could be distressing for people. Indeed, some story characters died suddenly from the intense emotional disturbance. Others were shocked by the impoliteness and unacceptable openness of the resurrected. Furthermore, living people had a psychological struggle with admitting this behavior because society does not permit direct expression of one’s thoughts and violent opposition against some accepted forms of injustice. It appears that all these emotional struggles of the living can be described as the opposite of grief. Moreover, the psychological burden was accompanied by some legislative issues that eventually forced people to send these people who had risen from the dead back.

The most prominent characteristic of the resurrected dead in this story was the ability to appreciate the present moment. Indeed, these people were not concerned about eternal life or external opinions; thus, they were focused on now. Like the characters of New Age novels, the resurrected did not differentiate between good and evil, viewing everything as an experience. However, their most distracting feature was the ability to speak the truth, something the living could not do even in the midst of the mass murder.

To sum up, Martinez’s story is a revelation of society’s inability for authenticity. The conflict between the living and the resurrected dead shows that the only thing that seems to help people to value the present moment and be truthful is the experience of death. Sadly, most people remained silent when all the resurrected were returned because it was more comfortable than defending ethical values.

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