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

 • Home •  • Preface • • Introduction •  • Chronology •  • Index •  • About the Author •

Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning
in Western Literature

The Preface

How did this compendium of samplings of writing about Dying, Death, Grief, and Mourning come about? It must have been, quite by a series of circumstances that I cannot fully explain. I cannot trace back to the exact onset of the research. My best recollection is that it was during my reading and subsequent re-reading and re-reading of the first entry, Gilgamesh, and the poignant passage that opens Book VIII in the original fragmented translation and then in the marvelous adaptation written by Stephen Mitchell in 2004 and the reading done for Books on Tape. Each line, each reference is reflected in myths, for the next 5000 years. It is not just about death, which is my focus, but also about the parallels in cultural remnants from our earliest ties.

Some of the themes and events that resonate through centuries of literature are as follows:

          Genocide
          Castles
          Walled cities
         
Royalty/Priests/Artisans/Servants, Craftsmen, Merchants, Innkeepers, Farmers, Laborers/ Poor
         
Marriage of Gods to humans
          The significance of flour
          Dream interpretations
          The bull and the dragon
          Biblical parallels/ Old & New Testaments
          The Great Flood
          The snake, the lion of the ground
          Shaping the human from clay

          Funerals, Statues and burial rituals

          Honor in battlefield dying
          The sin of suicide

          The search for life, youth eternal

          The power of women
          The defeat of women
          Of a woman scorned
          Life after life beneath the earth in hell/Deity of Hell
          Relationship with Mothers and Fathers/ Mothers and Sons
          The odysseys
          The five stages of grief
          Setting of a foundation stones
          The deification of birds
          The power of male sexuality/ the weaknesses
          The Second Coming/Resurrection/Afterlife
          The concept of Heaven and Hell
          The sacredness of temples/Priestess
          Baptisms/Holy waters/Cleanliness
          Colors Purple and Gold
          Doubles in literature
          Fathers and Sons
          The numerical value of seven (7)
          All of the above placements of themes and events are purely the researcher’s and the reader’s choices.

         

 

  Egeus: "Just as no one has ever died who did not live, so no one lives who will not die."

                                        Geoffrey Chaucer, Knight’s Tale. 1387
 

For the living know that they will die;
But the dead know nothing,
And they have no more reward,
For the memory of this is forgotten.
Also their love, their hatred, and

their envy have now perished;
Nevermore will they have a share
In anything done under the sun.

                                        King James, Ecclesiastes, 8 – 12
                                                Solomon, 931 BCE

   
 

Adrienne Nater, 2008

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