LITERATURE: A Death in The Family – Reader Involvement

I seem to be reading this part of the story in careful, hushed tones.  Has the author, James Agee, brought this about?  Does the reader become funereal with the waiting for confirmation of death?  In preparation for the ceremonies that necessarily accompany the event even though they are mere methods of stalling?

I’ve been through many, many deaths of dear ones, in all stages and in all ranges of shock to patient waiting and watching for the last pulse of blood, that last shuddering exhaled breath.  Agee has us witness a part of this drama, and has brought me to tears with this moment between Mary and her father shortly after they’ve heard the news:

He came over to her and took her hand and looked at her searchingly.  Why he’s just my height, she realized again.  She saw how much his eyes, in sympathy and pain, were like his sisters, tired, tender and resolute beneath the tired, frail eyelids.  He could not speak first.

You’re a good man, she said to herself, and her lips moved.  A good, good man.  My father.  In an instant she experienced afresh the whole of their friendship and estrangement.  Her eyes filled with tears and her mouth began to tremble.  "Papa," she said.  He took her close to him and she cried quietly. (p. 118)

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4 Responses to LITERATURE: A Death in The Family – Reader Involvement

  1. Wayne says:

    Yeah, it’s very real and takes us right up to the moment.

  2. susan says:

    He does write with sense of realism that I’ve not come across lately. It makes me wonder if other work is not the only reason I’m dragging through this, but that, like Mary and her family, I’m putting off the defined moment where life changes.

  3. Sallie says:

    Interesting words woven to help us feel. When the end, to end all ends comes… it seems words are never enough. Brad died 6th November, by himself, found by his brother. Sad. very sad. The boys and I will remember him. …and words are often not enough. Thank God for memories that linger in our hearts forever.
    Hugs sent back your way.

  4. creechman says:

    The next man to look at a woman “searchingly” will be the non-first.

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