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 American Literature

Final Project Example: Death & Success

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Success and Death

Throughout the readings I realized that death was a common link through most of the stories. It just seemed to me that if there was not a death in the story that it just was not a very interesting reading. I think that any kind of death or tragedy gets the reader's attention better than anything else. Some of the deaths were predictable and some of them came out of nowhere shocking the reader. Most of the deaths were by murder at the hands of another person, but some were natural as by sickness. Some of the characters that met their death were the main characters, but most of the characters that died were not that important in the story line. That is up until the time of their death when the whole story focuses in on their passing.

Of course my bulletin board would have to deal with the concept of death and how each story was affected by a characters death. The board would have a symbol or re-inactment of the death or murder. The background of the board would just have to be a dark red symbolizing blood being shed all over.

  • One set of items on the bulletin board would symbolize the deaths in the story Ruth Hall. The deaths of Harry and his daughter Daisy would be symbolized by a large headstone and a smaller one sitting beside each other.
  • Another symbol on the board would be a bloody fingerprint on a knife handle. This would be used for the story "Pudd'nhead Wilson" when Tom uses a knife to kill his uncle. Then the fingerprints on the knife handle are used to incriminate him and reveal his slave roots.
  • The next symbol would be from "O' Pioneers." The symbol would be a bloody tree with two bodies lying under it. This would symbolize the murder of Maria and Emil by Frank Shabata shooting them.
  • Continuing the trend of bloody items would be a bloody candlestick. This would represent Lutie beating Boots to death with a candlestick in self defense in "The Street.
  • The final symbol was hard for me to come up with. I knew it had to have something to do with Miles' death but I struggled to find something. I finally came up with just a bone, which represents the bonewoman who shot Miles in the head in "Staggerford."

I think that my bulletin board would get across the point of the impact of death in American Literature. Most of the stories deal with death and shows how the other surviving characters deal with a death. I belive that most importantly, success and death go hand in hand.

In each story that I have spoke of, when a death occurred it was related to the success of someone. In "Ruth Hall" when Harry died, it made Ruth have to work harder to succeed as a woman on her own. Without the death of Harry, Ruth may have been a housewife with no spine or courage to stand up to others for the rest of her life.

In "Pudd'nhead Wilson" the murder of Judge Driscoll had a huge affect on the success or lack there after for Tom. When Tom was found guilty of murdering his uncle, he was revealed as a black slave. Then he was appropriately sold down the river serving him right since he had done the same to his mother earlier.

In "O' Pioneers" when Emil and Maria were killed, Alexandra was already successful and their deaths had little affect on her success, but it did however have and affect on the rest of Frank Shabata's life success story. He killed his own wife and was put in jail, which would make any persons' life a great deal more troublesome.

In "The Street" when Lutie killed Boots and split town there was probably a ripple affect on several people. Junto lost an associate in Boots. Lutie would probably end up unsuccesful somewhere else, feeling guilty of killing a man and more importantly leaving her son. And of course Bub would live the rest of his life growing up not knowing what happened to his murderous mother.

In "Staggerford" I believe that the death of Miles actually ended up having a positive effect on the success of someone. I believe that since Beverly's mother was arrested and taken away where both she and Beverly would be safe that Beverly would benefit. Beverly would move in with Miss McGee for the rest of the year and summer, then go to college and be a successful woman. Without her mother killing Miles, the bonewoman would still be at home and Beverly would probably stay home with her taking care of the chickens feeling too guilty to leave her mother.I

I think that anyone who reads a story in American Literature that deals with a death can relate to it. Everyone has known someone that has died in their life who was close to them. They see how the people in the story were affected by the death and how they deal with it. They can relate these experiences to deaths and losses in their own life. This is why death in American Literature is such a strong theme.