A Natural History of the Dead

Length: 5 Pages 1263 Words

As one begins to dissect Ernest Hemingway’s short story “A Natural History of the Dead,” a great deal of meaning can be found through the situations he conveys. Through his commentary and the experiences of Mungo Park, much can be learned about Hemingway’s views and ideas. Upon quick read, one might think this is a simple-minded story about death and its place in history. However, it actually has a much deeper idea hidden in it. Hemingway is revealing to the reader how trivial death actually is. In fact, “A Natural History of the Dead” is completely irrelevant except to provide the reader with examples of how death is only a small part in the tremendously large scope of nature and the rest of the world. In his short story, Hemingway provides examples as to why death is just one facet in the big picture of life. Early in his story, Hemingway jump-starts the theme that is to be stressed through the rest of the short story by depicting many smaller experiences and cases. One such story is his description of dead bodies on the battlefield. He explains that one of the most surprising things seen on a battlefield is the paperwork scattered among the bodies. One does not remember the smell of the battlefield as much as the Continue...

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Although Mungo ended up living, the small flower and the rest of the world would have continued on unchanged had he died that day. Therefore, we must be careful not to develop tunnel vision and believe that our death is one of the most important events ever to occur. We must look at the bigger picture and realize that "A Natural History of the Dead is just as trivial as the Familiar History of Birds. By way of this example, Hemingway shows that even though a person might die, the rest of life, and everything that person has touched, goes on. Hemingway communicates the same message when discussing the scene of maggots "working where their the dead mouths have been. Just as the human body was not exploded along anatomical lines, the parts of the natural world cannot be split up into separate clean-cut sections. It is simply a part of life that plays a very trivial role in the whole scheme of things. Each part of the natural world is relative to every other part, and they all depend on each other. The image portrayed is that which Hemingway notices while cleaning up the battlefield of dead bodies. Mungo comments: "Can a being that planted, watered and brought to perfection, in this obscure part of the world, a thing which appears of so small importance, look with unconcern upon the situation and suffering of creatures formed after his own image Surely not. Such a description portrays the idea that although we may die, everything else in nature must go on, and it does, without much thought of our insignificant death. Financial statements, tax returns, employment records, and so on were everywhere to be found, but the body of the person often was not. This exemplifies the idea that death is only a small part of everything we know. It opens the readers' eyes to the fact that our death is not the final chapter in the story of the world. Thus, "A Natural History of the Dead is in effect irrelevant in its literal purpose.


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