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Questions: Can I compare Death from The Book Thief and the death themes in Alice and Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by using past representations of death? Would it work? Would it make sense? Is this even a good idea? Are there better ways to do this? Any advice or feedback would be greatly appreciated.
(This mini-draft only uses two out of the many comparisons that I have planned for my paper.)
The Growth of Death
Death, as the narrator of The Book Thief, can be better understood by looking at the personifications and representations of death that have not only occurred previously, but by those that have been used recently. The past accounts of death provide the framework for how this particular narrator was created. The more current accounts show how our modern perspective of Death, as a character, has changed. The growth of Death as a character, and as a unique narrator of The Book Thief, can be understood by looking at the past and present representations throughout world culture.
Death, as the narrator of The Book Thief, lacks the aspects of the traditional character representations of death. He has human qualities: emotions, frustrations, concerns. He does his job – taking the souls of the dead – in a peaceful manner. He does it because it is his job and there is no one else to take his place.
One of the older representations of death that can be compared to the narrator of The Book Thief comes from Greek mythology. The god of peaceful, non-violent death: Thanatos. Death, the narrator, can be compared to Thanatos because Death is also peaceful. Death recognizes the value of life, especially when it has been taken from those who died young. “I carried them [the souls of the dead] in my fingers, like suitcases. Or I’d throw them over my shoulder. It was only the children I carried in my arms.” Death gently takes the human’s souls with him. He cares.
While the Queen of Hearts from the novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is not a physical representation of death, she can contribute to the characteristics of Death from The Book Thief. With her story, the Queen of Hearts introduces death, “Off with their head!” but she does not kill anyone. Death, as the narrator, can be seen in a similar way. As the narrator, he tells the story, he explains what happens to the characters. He introduces the act of dying. He explains it through his behavior and his actions. Although he removes the souls of the dead, he himself does not kill anyone, just like the Queen of Hearts.