Loss Of A Loved One English Literature Essay

Loss of A Loved One. Amy Hempel’s short story, “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” is a heartrending story dedicated to her beloved friend, Jessica Wolfson, who died from terminally ill. This short story shows complicated emotions and feelings of grief and fear after losing a loved one. The narrator and the dying friend are unnamed due to affect the reader to get the story more personally. Hempel does not mention the names of the characters so the reader can imagine related to the narrator and her dying friend by placing the emotions and feelings of their own to be the part of story. By revealing the characters’ names in the story might present the reader to escape from the feelings of grief and empathy over losing beloved friend.

The style of “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” is minimalism by using an economy with words and a focus on surface description. Hempel does well with this style because she can achieve amazingly throughout the critics. This short story is her first effort at writing story when she composed in Gordon Lish’s class at Columbia. Her stories are very well-known because they were taught among university student in the class of short stories worldwide. “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” originally appeared in TriQuarterly magazine in 1983 and then reprinted in Amy Hempel’s first published collection of stories in 1985, Reasons to Live, as the most extensively anthologized stories of the last quarter century. Hempel is

The story opens

Amy Hempel’s short story, “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson’s Buried” shows how the narrator sees herself as useless. In order to cope with that feeling, she attempts to leave her terminally ill friend which makes the narrator come off as a selfish person – one that is in denial and afraid of death. Coping with death or the loss of a loved one is very difficult for many. In this case, the girl refuses to deal with her problem and runs away from it.

Hempel’s main character, the narrator, said, “The camera made me feel self-conscious and I stopped” (1). The girl realizes that her selfishness and inability to help her friend cope was becoming apparent to others (i.e. the nurses and her sick friend). As her friend lies in the isolation zone, dying, the two girls small talk endlessly until the narrator feels the pressure to leave and never come back. At first glance it may appear as though it is her way of dealing with her friend’s upcoming death but the situation is not about her. It is about her dying best friend. She is there to help. But when she runs away from the problem the friend feels this too. “‘I have to go home,’ I said when she woke up” (Hempel 9). But is it really running away or something more? The narrator, seeing her best friend for the first time in two months, is ready to leave, go out, live life to the fullest and be reckless. The realization that life is too short to spend fretting and locked up, no matter the reason, has hit her and she decides to act on it without realizing that the same mentality would be fatal to her friend. But as you can now see, the narrator had had an epiphany about how exactly to cope with death. Amy Hempel wrote:

“I had a convertible in the parking lot. Once out of that room, I would drive too fast down the Coast highway through the crab-smelling air. A stop in Malibu for sangria. The music in the place would be sexy and loud. They’d serve papaya and shrimp and watermelon ice. After dinner I would shimmer with lust, buzz with heat, life and stay up all night” (9)

For the sick “Best Friend” (Hempel 2) however, dealing with her upcoming death is much more difficult as she does not have the luxury to leave Isolation (Hempel 10). She is unable to run away from her problems as they follow her wherever she goes. Amy Hempel writes:

“Without a word, she yanked off her mask and threw it on the floor. She kicked at the blankets and moved to the door. She must have hated having to pause for breath and balance before slamming out of Isolation, and out of the second room, the one where you scrub and tie on the white masks” (10).

The author used this subtle technique to demonstrate the dying friend’s desire to cope with her problems. By running out of Isolation, she would be freeing herself of dread, boredom, and sadness that go along with an upcoming death. But what the girl doesn’t understand is that she cannot run away from her problems. They are real. They are there to stay. The friend who can leave is ignorant of the fact that although her friend is not afraid of death, she becomes aware of the fact that she is afraid of not living.

“Was I the only one who noticed that the experts had stopped saying if and now spoke of when? Of course not; the fearful ran to thousands…I wanted her to be afraid with me. But she said, ‘I don’t know. I’m just not.’”

During Amy Hempel’s interview with Vice Magazine she was asked if she personified her characters, and the author admitted that she had. “It makes it a little bit easier since I know them…” (Hempel Interview. 2) Knowing your characters and yourself makes life that much easier. But because death is such a sore topic, as it should be, knowing the person who is dying is difficult. In the same interview, Hempel said, “[People] compare themselves to [others]. I think that’s useless. As you say (referring to the interviewer), you’re only trying to beat your best…” (2) Amy Hempel’s short story shows that although death affects both of the girls, each one takes on their own interpretation of what leaving means. The healthy best friend takes the hedonistic approach, while the sickly one takes the suicidal one. Each decision has its pros and cons but in the end, both girls will have to live (or die) with their decisions.

“On the morning she was moved to the cemetery, the one where Al Jolson’s buried, I enrolled in a ‘Fear of Flying’ class. ‘What is your worst fear?’ the instructor asked, and I answered, ‘That I will finish this course and still be afraid.’” (Hempel 10)

After the death of her best friend, the narrator “enrolled in a ‘Fear of Flying’ class” (Hempel 10). She wanted to deal with a fear of hers through real life lessons. Her first step was admitting her fear. Everyone deals with death in a certain manner, but in the beginning, everyone is afraid of it. Admitting you are afraid of death means that you’re only human and death is something that should be feared. People can only hope to fully understand it and as humans, we tend to fear what we do not understand.

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