Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960


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in Western Literature

An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

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Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning

in Western Literature


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Gustav Flaubert, Madame Bovary, 1848

 Translation by Eleanor Marx Aveling & Paul de Man

Death of Emma Bovary

Death of Emma Bovary:

In fact, she looked around her slowly, as one awakening from a dream;

Then in a distinct voice she asked for her mirror, and remained bent over it for some time, until big tears fell from her eyes. Then she turned away her head with a sigh and fell back upon the pillows.

Her chest soon began heaving rapidly; the whole of her tongue protruded from her mouth; her eyes rolled, grew paler, like the two globes of a lamp that is going out, so that one might have thought her already dead but for the fearful labouring of her ribs, shaken by violent breathing, as if the soul were struggling to free itself. Felicite knelt down before the crucifix, the pharmacist himself slightly bent on his knees, while Monsieur Canivet looked out vaguely at the Square. Bournisien has resumed his praying, his face bowed against the edge of the bed, his long black cassock trailing behind him in the room. Charles was on the other side, on his knees, his arms outstretched towards Emma. He had taken her hands and pressed them, shuttering at every heartbeat, as at the tremors of a falling ruin. As the death-rattle became stronger the priest prayed faster; his prayers mingled with Bovary’s stifled sobs, and sometimes all seemed lost in the muffled murmur of the Latin syllables that sounded like a tolling bell.

Suddenly from the pavement outside came the loud noise of wooden shoes and the clattering of a stick; and a voice rose — a raucous voice — that sang

     Often the heat of a summer’s day

     Makes a young girl dream her heart away.

Emma raised herself like a galvanized corpse, her hair streaming, her eyes fixed, staring.

     To gather up all the new-cut stalks

     Of wheat left by the scythe’s cold swing.

     Nanette bends over as she walks

     Toward the furrows from where they spring.

"The blind man!" she cried.

And Emma began to laugh, an atrocious, frantic, desperate laugh, thinking she saw the hideous face of the poor wretch loom out of the eternal darkness like a menace.

The wind blew very hard that day

It blew her petticoat away.

A final spasm threw her back upon the mattress. They all drew near. She had ceased to exist.



Adrienne Nater, 2008

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