Death has been portrayed in many ways in literature, from a dark mysterious stalker to a celebration of eternal life. Every person has their own view of death, which means that death has no boundaries as to what form it takes. Some of the more widely used views are as a feared being, a humorous clown, and as a continuance of life.
In the short story “Idiots First”(1223) death is portrayed as an evil stalker, who tries to keep the main character “Mendell” from getting his son to a family member, to take care of him, before he dies. Ginzburg (Death) takes the form of many characters in the story, all of which hinder “Mendell” from completing his task. In the end of the story “Ginzburg” has “Mendell” at his mercy, at the gate to the train, and looks into the eye’s of Mendell and can see the fear he has of not being able to take care of his son. Death takes pity on Mendell and allows him to put his son on the train. In “Appointment in Samara” the servant is sent to the market, while at the market, he sees death. When the servant returns to his master he tells him that he has seen death and that he must leave before death comes for him. The servant fearing for his life leaves for Samara. The master goes to the market place and also sees death and asks him about his servant. Death tells him that he has nothing to worry about that his servant is not to die here but in Samara. The servant fearing that he will die runs straight to his death.
Humor and death are an odd combination, and to some people it may seam morbid. In some context death has a humorous side. A good example of this is in Woody Allen’s, Death Knocks (1305). Death is viewed as a clumsy little man, who is out of shape, and is not very serious about his work. Nat the main character in the play tries to control his fate, and coaxes death into a game of Gin Rummy, and if he wins he gets an extension on his life. When Nat wins the game and all of the money that death has, death is forced to leave with nothing to show for his night’s work. In the poem “Nobody Loses All The Time” (1280), Uncle Sol is described as born loser who never in his life had anything go in his favor. Only in his death was he a success at anything. The humor of the poem is ironic due to the fact that Uncle Sol became a successful worm farmer after his death, and was in the grave.
Every man at some time in his life has thought about what will happen after they die. In some religions people continue to be reborn after their death until they reach their utopia. In literature the theme of eternal life is a popular topic. In “Death Be Not Proud”(1263) death is viewed as only a messenger of fate, an end to the physical world. What comes after death is eternal life where death does not exist anymore. In “When Death Comes”(1294) the speaker ask what is next, the speaker knows that physical life is not all there is and out of curiosity ask what happens after death. “To An Athlete Dying Young”(1269) eternal life is not the same, eternal life is being held as a hero even after death.
Weather death is viewed as an evil being or as eternal life, there is one thing that holds true. Death comes to us all in the end.