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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Simone De Beauvoir, She Came to Stay, 1943


Death of Francoise

Death of Francoise :

Françoise put her hand on the gas range and turned on the valve. "I’m not advising you; I’m imploring you," she said.

"Imploring!" Xaviere laughed, "I’m not a noble soul."

"Very well then," Françoise said. "Good-bye."

She took a stept toward the door and silently looked back at that livid, childlike face which she would never again see alive.

"Good-bye," she repeated.

"And don’t come back," said Xaviere with fury.

Françoise heard her leap from her bed and bolt the door. The ray of light filtering beneath went out.

And now?

Françoise stood staring at Xaviere’s door. Alone. Unaided. Relying now solely on herself. She waited for some time. Then she walked into the kitchen and put her hand on the lever of the gas meter. Her hand tightened — it seemed impossible. Face to face with her solitude, beyond space, beyond time, stood this alien presence that had for so long crushed her with its blind shadow: Xaviere was there, existing only for herself, entirely self-centered, reducing to nothingness everything for which she had no use; she encompassed the whole world within her own triumphant solitude that she was, she drew from herself, she barred all dominance over her, she was absolute separateness. And yet it was only necessary to pull down this lever to annihilate her. Annihilate a conscience! How can I? Françoise thought. But how was it possible for a conscience not her own to exist? In that case, it was she who did not exist. She repeated, She or I, and pulled down the lever.

She went back to her room, gathered up the letters strewn on the floor and threw them into the fireplace. She struck a match and watched the letters burn. Xaviere’s door was locked on the inside. They would think it was an accident or suicide. In any case, there will be no proof, she thought.

She undressed and put on her pajamas. Tomorrow morning she will be dead. She sat down, facing the darkened passage. Xaviere was sleeping. With each minute her sleep will grow deeper. On the bed there still remained a living form, but it was already no one. There was no one any longer. Francoise was alone.

Alone. She had acted alone. As alone as in death. One day Pierre would know. But even he would only know her act from the outside. No one could condemn or absolve her. Her act was her very own. I have done it of my own free will. It was her own will which was being fulfilled, now nothing separated her from herself. She had chosen at last. She had chosen herself.




Adrienne Nater, 2008

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