The Misfortune Of Silence Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

1590 words - 6 pages

The Misfortune of SilenceHello Darkness, My Old FriendTo make something as vast and all-encompassing as the image of Death is authors have generally chosen to personify it as if it was a person or an entity that we could speak with. One of the best examples of this in English literature is John Donne's Holy Sonnet X, or Death be not proud. Another good example of deaths personification lies in German literature, with the Brothers Grimm's Godfather Death. Both of these works use personification as an attempt to make dealing with the idea of death more concrete. The difference in these two works comes in the way in which death is portrayed, in Holy Sonnet X death is mocked and made impotent, whereas in Godfather Death, death is portrayed as a great equalizer of men and force to be feared.John Donne wrote Holy Sonnet X after a bout with a fever that almost took his life. He uses a literary device known as an apostrophe, which is when an author personifies something in order to be able to communicate with it like it was human. This is considered one of the best examples of this in English literature. But the uniqueness of this device is not necessarily in its personification, but in how it uses that in order to demean and make death impotent. This is a stark change of the way death was viewed at the time. This sonnet was written around 1610. That is around the time the Plague had ravaged most of Europe, and there was no modern medicine or sterilization. To people in this time death was not just inevitable but something that was literally just waiting right around the corner and was a part of daily life. The uncertainty and fragility of life made people flock to churches and turn to God to offer certainty. So in John Donne's time the image of death was one that people feared and respected because of its viewed power. This is what makes his mocking tone one that is so abrupt and strange to hear. This tone is apparent in the first line of the poem when Donne says, "Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so"(601). He then goes on to say that the people who Death thinks he brings down don't really die, "nor yet canst thou kill me"(601), because he implies that there is an afterlife that we all live in eternally. He then says that since we get much pleasure "from rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be" (601), we should get much more from death since he brings heaven. He then proceeds to insult Death by calling him a slave to other forces and wills, and then says that once we are in the afterlife to live eternally Death himself dies. This poem is a fitting way for Donne to thumb his nose at Death.Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm wrote Godfather Death as part of their collection of fairy tales. In Godfather Death, an old man who already has twelve children, that he can barely take care of, has another child. He then proceeds to go into the road and stop the first person that he sees so he can make them the godfather....

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