Sinyard 1 Shauna Sinyard Mark Hall, Ph. D.
English 2100 1 February 2011 Grief in “By-and-by” and “Hell-Heaven” Grief is a terrible, debilitating thing that has the ability to engulf mourners in a wave of sorrow and render them unable to function. Whether grief manifests itself in a Bengali wife dousing herself in lighter fluid and standing in the front yard holding a match to her flammable garments, or carrying it around like the relics of the dead, grief forces perfectly sane people to act outside the normal realm of their thoughts. Forbidden, unrequited love, the death of a friend or family member, drifting away from those you love, all can cause a depressing grief that ebbs and flows like the river Styx. Amy Bloom’s “By-and-by” and Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Hell-Heaven” contain two very different examples of grief, two distinctly different causes of the same emotion. “By-and-by” is the story of Anne, a beautiful young woman who we presume from the beginning to be dead. Amy Bloom has a specific way of introducing her story to us. From the beginning, we know that this is a story about death. “Every death is violent. The iris, the rainbow of the eye, closes down. The pupil spreads out like black water. It seems natural, if you are there, to push the lid down, to ease the pleated shade over the ball, to the lower lashes. The light is out, close the door.” Anne’s death is meant to be particularly disturbing and heartbreaking to the reader. She is missing, she was raped, and she was stabbed twice in the heart. Eugene Trask, our ever-present metaphor for death, actually enjoyed her company. She was always Anne, never Annie, and she was special. There is something to be said about the way a person is remembered. The dead are celebrated for all of their positive traits. Any preexisting grudges are dissolved, and only the best memories of the person are retained.
Comment [BL2]: I like these sentences. I believe this is a good point to make but elaborate on how this relates to how the narrator grieves. Are you saying that w grief causes a person to forget that the dead had flaws? Comment [BL1]: I really like this first paragraph. It basically defines what grief is by explaining what grief may cause a person to do by stating that it causes a person to act outside the norm.
Sinyard 2 Bloom uses her background as a psychotherapist to develop this story. Eugene Trask is a different kind of sociopath, rapist, and murderer; all of his victims were stabbed twice in the heart. “The heart is really two hearts…the left heart pumps the blood through the body. Even when there is nothing more for it to do, even when you have already lost ten ounces of blood…the left heart keeps pumping, bringing old news to nowhere. The right heart sits still as a cave, a think scrim of blood barely covering its floor.” The narrator in this story is so overcome with grief; we never actually learn her name. We know things about her, such as her occupation, that she has lived with Anne for four years¸ that she has a boyfriend in Maine, but we never learn her name, how she met Anne, or even her age. The narrator has nightly talks with Mrs. Warburg, while wearing Anne’s robe and lying on Anne’s bed, which speaks volumes to her grief. Simply imagine, knowing someone you love is missing, but not knowing if they are alive and being held captive, or if they are lying on the bottom of a mine shaft, stabbed twice in the heart. Lahiri’s “Hell-Heaven” showcases a much different caste of grief. Usha’s mother and her infatuation with Pranab Kaku stemmed not only from her disdain at her husband, but her unhappiness at having an arranged marriage. The torture she went through, being in love with a man who was not her husband, and never being able to act, never being able to touch him the ways she longed to. Usha’s parents had a love-less marriage. Her father was married to his work and her mother resented it. When Kaku walked into her life, he became the “one totally unanticipated pleasure in her life.” Eventually, Kaku fell in love with an American, and left Usha’s mother once again. The heartbreak she experienced caused a terrible grief that caused her to retreat within herself. The day of Kaku’s wedding she nearly attempted suicide. This desperate and unrequited love she experienced nearly killed her.
Comment [BL4]: You are headed in the right direction. You make some really good points and you give evidence to making your argument. All you need to do now is add more. I like what you have. Comment [BL3]: This is a very good point. The narrators anonymity does add to the idea of grief. I think that you can take this further by saying that the narrator endulges nothing about her self suggesting that her grief is causing her to only think about the one she lost causing her to live in the past and not to move forward. I hope this makes sense.