Essay on Love and Death

This essay has a total of 1201 words and 6 pages.


Love and Death





Lange, Jason
Eng 110, M-W 2-3:45
The Last Paper
Love and death are often associated with each other in artistic depictions of human
existence. In movies ‘love’ is sometimes said to be the only thing worth
living for. In Christian literature death has been prophesized as the release from this
hard world and the gateway to a world of ultimate peace and love. Sherwood Anderson in
his book Winesburg, Ohio, changes the expected metaphor or connection between death and
love.

In both stories Tom Willard plays a minimal part. He does however give an example of the
connection between death and love in his own distorted manner. Tom prides himself,
falsely, on the notion that he is an important man around town. He has always envisioned
himself rising up in the political scene in Winesburg, or even becoming Governor. His
wife, Elizabeth Willard is like death to him. In his mind, she looms over his dreams
casting a shadow that he blames for his meager existence. In the story mother, he
describes her presence to be “ghostly” and when he thinks of her he swears
angrily (39). Sometimes when he is out in the street he turns to look behind him suddenly
as if her ghost and the “spirit of the hotel” were their casting their shadow
on him even in the streets.

Tom connects Elizabeth and the hotel to his inability to find success. His life is
dominated by the affairs of the shabby hotel. The hotel is a legacy of Elizabeth’s
father’s; she walks around in the hotel like it’s her coffin. So for Tom
their presence is a reminder of his uneventful life. They are represent the death of his
hopes and dreams. He at one point says, “Damn such a life, damn it” (39), in
a context that places blame on Elizabeth and the hotel. It is as if with the death of
Elizabeth you might see Tom picturing himself selling the hotel, and going to Ohio’s
capital to become serious statesman.

In Mother, Elizabeth is looking for a different kind of liberation. Elizabeth’s
dreams for her own life have long ago died. Yet she clings to life for the sake of one
thought. She is trying to ensure that her son (George Willard) does not become a lifeless
thing like herself. This is the basis of their relationship, the “bond of
sympathy” as the writer puts it, “based on a girlhood dream that had long ago
died” (40).

Elizabeth has infinite amount of love for her son. Not the kind of love most commonly
felt by a mother for her son. The love she has is almost bigger than both of them; she
loves what she thinks is possible inside the boy. Elizabeth loves this because is
reminiscent of the thing she loved most inside herself. She describes the things inside
George as something “that was once a part of herself re-created” (40). Her
own death, in event, would be like a peaceful release. She would in effect be let go from
the reminder of her own inner failure to the “thing” alive in her (40).

What is inside George potentially represents the only thing she ever really loved in her
life. The technicality of her own continued existence is the determination to make sure
that George does not let this thing die inside himself. Elizabeth’s love for George
is only real because she sees that mystical thing inside him. She makes love into a
grotesque and selfish wish that is more for herself than her son. This is hinted at when
she is pleading with god, she says “I will take any blow that may befall if but this
my boy be allowed to express something for the both of us” (40).


In the story death Elizabeth finds a complete release. After the almost love affair with
Doctor Reefy, Elizabeth is just waiting to die. She seems content with the idea that
death is the only thing that will finally give her peace. She has assured herself that
her son will go out into the world and live on the thing that she once lived on. Death is
so longed for that she makes it into beautiful physical being that will soothingly let her
leave this world behind. She wants death so badly that she instinctively thrusts her hand
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