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The Big Impacts Of Small Deaths

1264 words - 5 pages

Throughout American literature, the deaths of certain characters are often as unavoidable as the termination of life in the real world. In the realm of realistic fiction from the early 20th century, deaths began to signify more than just the simple loss of a life. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and John Steinbach’s The Grapes of Wrath, the deaths of seemingly minor characters not only signify the end of an era and termination of a fight, but the beginnings of a new life and the revelation of human nature to push the stormy weather onto a third party in hopes of unachieved selfish ambition.
As truly dynamic authors, Fitzgerald and Steinbach both use their masterpieces to portray their dissatisfactions with the current periods of American History. Fitzgerald uses Myrtle’s death to show readers that the “Roaring Twenties” were wrong in morals and lifestyle, and it’s despicable values should terminate promptly. It also portrays his views of the end of a thriving middle class, as Myrtle is obviously not the prime citizen. Similarly, Steinbach utilizes the death of the dog to broadcast his views that the era of prosperity has drawn quickly to a close, but the era of Depression and suffering needs to end abruptly. In The Great Gatsby, the era that terminates is the era of shameless desires for more, be it wealth or love. Nick’s quest for riches ends abruptly as his one friend, Gatsby, dies and his other acquaintances move away. Myrtle’s quest for freedom through love obviously ends with her death, but as she was Wilson’s husband, his need for her affections spirals out of control and ends when not only his, but Gatsby’s life also get stolen away in brash resentment. Seeing as both of their other lovers are gone, Daisy and Tom also decide it’s time to end their ambitions for the glamorous life in the city and “go away early that afternoon, and take their baggage with them.” This ending of the era of love and wealth signifies much more than that, however. It also signifies the ending of the general friendliness between people. Tom and all the onlookers at the scene of Myrtle’s accident have no sympathy towards WIlson, the grieving husband. Instead they brush him off in order to isolate themselves and withdraw entertainment from the spectacle. Similarly, in The Grapes of Wrath, the young kids switch from innocence and excitement, constant willingness for adventures and explorations, to sickness and grief. The death of the pet effectively ameliorates the era of childlike innocence and renders the children into a life to be filled with pain and insecurities as Winfield exhibits with his false boldness, then evident disgust. “When he sat up again his eyes were watery and his nose running.” It also symbolizes the end of the carefree era, just like Myrtle’s death in Gatsby ended their happy era. Before the dog dies, he wanders around the yard perfectly insouciant. But when the car hits him, the era of freedom ends, as does the era of extraneous...

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