Essay

A Death in the Family

Essay title: A Death in the Family

The novel has many sections talking about young Rufus's memories of growing up and perspective on his father's death, the seriousness and finality of which he is not quite old enough to understand.His expectations of a "surprise" that turns out to be the birth of his younger sister, a lesson on race relations from his black nurse Victoria. The torment and ridicule he suffers from older, bigger boys when he starts school, and, most strong of all, a Charlie Chaplin film to which his father takes him.Religion plays a rolein thenovel although it is not filled with moving, over religious references that try to find some higher purpose in the tragedy. The author explores trauma and grief, making his novel warm but not sentimental and sad but not depressing or grim.

My opinion is the purpose of A Death in the Family was to put death into perspective for the people of that time. I don’t think that the people back then had much experience in handling death. I think the first couple of chapters were more of a getting to know the family and what they were like. Mary’s support of Jay even though she wanted him to wait till morning before going to see his father. When he decided that he was going to go that night she still got up and cooked him breakfast. The conversations between Ralph and Jay show that Ralph is the drunk in the family, but Jay also enjoys drinking. It shows clearly in the novel that alcoholism runs in the family. It is also clear that Ralph feels inferior to Jay, and that Ralph is not the most reliable person.There is some foreshadowing in chapter two that the car is going to be important to the plot. The car is depicted as an unwieldy beast, a "malicious mule"; Agee compares the noise it makes to a "lunatic sobbing" and a "mouse being tortured." Mary watches in apprehension as the car leaves the driveway. These are all examples of how the car is going to play an important role in the story.

Religion is noted very important to Mary, but not as important to Jay. I began to understand that religious faith, like alcohol, is a point of conflict between Mary and Jay that reappears throughout the story. Agee uses the points of view of children to explore some of the heavy issues that the novel, raising them in an innocent, untrained way that sheds new light onto each circumstance and gives us a better sense of the human truths that the narrative tells. Rufus doesn’t understandthe religious views that are trying to be put on the death. Rufus's misunderstanding of theanswers religious belief provides is indicative of not only his own views, but also the views of Jay and much of Mary's own family. Aunt Hannah is the only one who shares Mary's religious faith; no one else can really understand it, and some are even somewhat repulsed by it. The novel as a whole does not lend religion any special authority; it merely presents religion as one of a number of potential coping strategies. In my opinion a lot of people rely on religion to get them through the hard times. Some people even if they are not religiousturn to god in trying moments.

When aunt Hannah take Rufus shopping I think that she is encouraging him to listen to his own individual preferences, by buying the hat he wants not the one that would make everyone else happy. She reflects that she does not want to cause tension between Rufus and Mary, but she feels that, in this instance, Mary would get Rufus the cap herself if she knew how badly he wanted it. The fact that Rufus chooses a cap that is brightly colored and too big for him reminds us of his youth.

In the last few chapters even though Rufus and little Catherine are not present you can still see the childish behaviors. Joel questions the fact of Jay’s ghost being there.At this point, the perspective of children and that of adults appears to intersect, which demonstrates to us that reality is not as clear-cut as it seemed before Jay died. In a time of loss, neither adults nor children have all the answers. Unlike children, though, the adults can fall back on the fact.