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The Personification of Death

English 12 Final Project - Mr Wallace
by

Nat Blechova

on 4 June 2015

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Transcript of The Personification of Death

The Book Thief
Pop Culture
Religions - Ancient and Modern
Gaiman's personification of Death is as a young woman who is a very important character in his series
Sandman
, and is also a minor character in the DC Universe.
The Grim Reaper
By Natalie Blecha
The Personification of Death
This is a novel by Marcus Zuzak in which the narrator of the book is a personification of Death. This allows the story to be told from an omniscient point of view, while also allowing commentary on the nature of humanity, as well as back stories and subplots that tie into the story, but would have been impossible to tell from a single character's point of view. This particular character is intended to be humerous in some cases, and serious in others, making it easy for the reader to feel connected to Death, rather than fearing him.
The Grim Reaper is the first well-known personification of Death in Western culture. Death first appeared in this form 15th century Europe as a skeleton wearing a hooded cloak and carrying a scythe in literature and paintings. It differs from place to place whether this figure causes death in the person they choose to visit, or simply serves as a messenger, to separate the soul from the body and to bring it to the afterlife. In The Book Thief, the narrator refutes some of these stereotypes, saying that he does not look like a Grim Reaper with the sickle or the scythe, and if the reader would like to see what Death looks like, then they should look in a mirror, because all humans look like death as all humans die.

Cover Art - The hooded figure represents
Death, and the young girl, Lisel,
is the main character that the story follow
in Nazi Germany
The Gender of Death
In Western cultures, Death is often personified as male. This arises from the cultural idea that male is the default gender, and so a lack of gender markers is read as masculine as opposed to androgynous. In The Book Thief, Death uses he/him/his pronouns to refer to himself, but never explicitly states his gender. In the English language, words do not have genders, and so death is not coded as male or female, and so as a concept has no gender. In other languages that also have their origins in Europe, such as French, Spanish, Italian and Czech, the word "death" is feminine and must be referred to using feminine pronouns and prepositions, but in German, the word is masculine. In Nordic cultures, Death is represented by a Goddess, Hel, but Greek mythology, Death is represented by a God, Thanatos. All over the world, the gender of the personification of Death changes, as do cultural views on gender, but in this presentation, I will use which ever pronoun fits the culture or piece of literature I am discussing.
References
Death (Character). (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2015, from http://www.comicvine.com/death/4005-12620/

Guthke, K. (1999). The gender of death: A cultural history in art and literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Higgins, R. (n.d.). Tangihanga – death customs - mythological origins. Retrieved June 4, 2015, from http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/artwork/28776/hine-nui-te-po

List of death deities. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_death_deities

Polo, S. (2010, July 9). Peachy Keen! Death of the Endless to Appear in Action Comics #894. Retrieved May 25, 2015, from http://www.themarysue.com/death-action-comics-894/

Reiss, H. (2000, May 25). Death: The First Gender Bender. Retrieved June 4, 2015, from https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/books/death-the-first-gender-bender/156211.article

Tamm, M. (n.d.). Death and Dying. Retrieved May 25, 2015, from http://www.deathreference.com/Nu-Pu/Personifications-of-Death.html



Many modern authors and script writers have included a personification of Death in their pieces. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman are both known for including personification of Death in their work; as the 4th horseman of the apocalypse in Good Omens, and separately, in Pratchett's Discworld series, and in Gaiman's comics. Pratchett's version of Death is a skeleton in hooded cloak, presumed male, and who speaks in all caps every time he makes an appearance in any of Pratchett's books. Usually these portrayals are presented as humorous. By giving Death human qualities and flaws, this allows viewers and readers to indify more with the idea of Death,, or give people a nicer way to think about the end.
As well as graphic novels and books, Death also appears as a character in Family Guy


Hel - The Norse Goddess of Death
Thanatos - The Greek God of Death
La Santa Muerte - Latin American Folklore
Anguta - The Inuit Spirit who takes souls to the afterlife
Hine-nui-te-pō - The Māori Goddess of Night and Death and Ruler of the Underworld
Inquiry Question : Why is the personification of Death so common in both modern pop culture and ancient religion and mythologies?
This personification appears in many literature classics as well as poems from 15th century onwards in Europe. As a general rule, this personification is intended to be scary and frightening, so that people can have the proper respect for Death, and value their own lives while it is in process.
These personifications are intended to be grand and awe-inspiring, and scary in some cases, as well as the bringer of peace in others. The intention here o to give people the appropriate respect for their dead, as well as give them something to think about and connect with, a reason why Death exists, so that they can accept their place in the universe.
Conclusion: Personifications of Death are common to all forms of art and religions and mythologies around the world because all humans have struggled to understand the concept of Death, and are scared by the unknown of what happens after.
These personifications are a way to add humor to the situation to make it easier to understand, or to inspire the proper awe as to ensure the respect of the dead, and of the life in process, or simply to take away some of the unknown with a supernatural explanation.
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