Death As A Theme

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In the two short stories, “Lives of The Dead” by Tim O’Brien and “In The Cemetery Where Al Johnson is Buried” by Amy Hempel, a common theme of death is presented to the reader. More specifically than just death, is the idea of coping and dealing with the deaths of others. Although both stories are completely different from each other we see this similar theme develop in very similar ways. Both stories deal with the idea of coping with the death of friends, through the use of humor. We see that in “Lives of The Dead” many of the U.S. soldiers, of Vietnam, use humor to deal with the constant reality of death that surrounds them. Take for example when O’Brien writes “At one point, I remember, they sat the body up against a fence. They crossed his legs and talked to him. ‘The guest of honor’, Mitchell Sanders said” (256). This shows the men playing around with the body of a dead, old Vietnamese man, (who was probably an innocent villager) in an attempt to levitate the situation of any sorrow or ill feelings. We also see another similar example of this in the end of the story. O’Brien tells us that his dad tried to help him get over the death of his first love, Linda, (when he was 9) by taking him out to have ice cream after seeing her open casket. This too shows the same kind of theme of coping with death through use of humor, or at least a non-serious method. Similar to O’Brien’s story, Hempel’s also deals with the idea of using humor as a means to escape the grief of death. We see that in “In The Cemetery” the humor is used in a somewhat different way, in a very different kind of story. In this short we see humor is used to cope with the grief of the impending death that is soon to come for the narrator’s best friend. We see that the friend makes a humorous joke about her own shortly coming death when she says, as she puts a phone cord around her

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