Tragedy is a common theme in storytelling, often marked by misfortune or loss. Tragic events often occur in the plot to change major characters’ perspectives or deliver the story’s morals. Tragedy has been entangled with other themes, such as loss, love, pride, and abuse of power, among others. The Greek philosopher Aristotle also used tragedy to depict the downfall of a previously considered good person through some misjudgment. The tragedy is associated with the suffering of the victim and the protagonist’s insights on fatal errors that led to their downfall (Burn and Mary 21). The theme created pity or fear in the audience to avoid the circumstances that lead to the tragedy. Even though the attributes are considered a natural process, witnessing the pain and suffering of others made people pitiful and fearful. However, an individual is likely to be relieved and purged of the sad feelings with time through catharsis (Leech 21). This paper explores tragedy based on three stories to educate the audience. In any storyline, tragedy is marked with compelling lessons, where people learn from the pain of others to better their lives.
Dark’s In the Gloaming is considered one of the compelling stories that integrate the theme of tragedy to educate its audience. Even though Alice Dark does not mention their homosexuality of Laird and AIDs throughout the storyline, it is apparent that he had come home to die from one or both conditions. If Laird had not been a victim of these situations, his story had been filmed differently. Laird’s father also sheds some little light on that he had been disappointed by his son owing to his ailment. However, the opening sentence of the book already prepares the reader for the rest of the story. Dark employs a brief first sentence, which is a potential regret to Liard, who appears to want to talk suddenly. Dark writes, “her son wanted to talk again suddenly” (88). Liard’s speech must have been evoked by his experiences that have not been explained in detail. The tragedy facing Liard is life-threatening since he is terminally ill. The storyteller is keen to avoid any social issues related to Liard’s situation by focusing on the universal dilemma of intermittent death. For example, people who knew him previously were shocked by his present health status and could fall into tears. Liard himself appears to put social barriers by accepting no phone calls or visitors.
Dark emphasizes the emotions of Liard’s mother towards her son’s inevitable death. Such a scenario points out that tragic moments are likely to spread out to other concerned parties even when they did not have a contributory role in the tragic incident. Liard’s mother sounds sympathetic and pitiful to his son and the conditions he was experiencing. Dark’s sentimentality is expressed in how she makes both Liard and his mother witty and sophisticated by bantering about the death process (89). However, Dark engages the audience in a flirtatious relationship between the mother and the dying son, spurring the thematic tension of tragedy. Janet seems to behave absurdly like a youthful girl who has crushed on a boy (Dark 88). The story gets into the double tragedy of parenting, where, unlike most parents, Janet gets intimate conversations with his son because of his dependence. Such consideration allows Janet to rediscover the joys of parenthood.
Wallace’s The View from Mrs. Thompson’s provides spectacular views based on his post-9/11 experiences in Bloomington, Illinois. 9/11 was a tragic incident in American history with devastating effects on the people. Americans received pity from all over the world, while they continued to live in fear afterward. The author gained insights into the tragedy while watching the events unfold on the television broadcast in his neighbor’s house (Burn and Mary 19). Wallace focused on the tragedy and how he could purchase a flag to portray in the event’s wake. Even though the flags could be found everywhere, Wallace could not secure any because of the challenges of uniting people of different classes and geography. Such a scene leaves Wallace in worry since his home might be viewed negatively without displaying the flag. For instance, all his neighbors concur that erecting the flag was a sign of solidarity, pride, and support. While watching from Mrs. Thompson’s living room and other neighbors, Wallace engages in different opinions that lead to shared honor (Burn and Mary 23). Therefore, tragedies are vital in demonstrating honorary moments and events among people from various facets of life.
Jo Ann Beard is the author and first-person narrator of the Fourth State of Matter. In the essay, Beard encountered tragic events at the University of Iowa. She uses the symbols of her dog, the squirrels, and the plasma to explain the horrific events. Joan first introduces her dog. The dog is the one symbol of the shooting and death of her friend Chris. As Beard states, “the collie fell down the basement stairs. I do not know if she was disoriented and was looking for me or what. But when I was at work, she used her long nose like a lever and got the door opened and tried to go down there, except her legs would not do it, and she fell” (10). Such is evidence that the dog cannot control his body, and ultimately, Gang Lu could not also control himself at the time of the shooting, and there is absolutely nothing that could have been done to prevent him.
The tragedy is also depicted through Gang Lu, a colleague to Jo Ann Beard. Lu is going through a lot of issues with his colleagues and supervisors. For instance, the committee handling his dissertation has not fully offered guidance for his success academically; additionally, one of his colleagues Linhua Shan self-serving, who has been rewarded constantly despite his inadequacies as a physicist (Beard 11). All this bitterness piled up leads Beard’s peer, Gang Lu to fire gunshots at six of his co-workers. Gang Lu killed his workmates because he felt that he was a victim of intense deceit (Beard 14). At that time, Jo Ann is not present at work. Additionally, Gang Lu commits suicide because of the guilt he felt, ending up in double tragedy.
Overall, tragedies have compelling lessons, especially to those who witness them that can assist them to improve their situations. For example, Wallace’s insights reveal that how people view and react to tragedies is based on priorities. People in Mrs. Thompson’s living room were traumatized, tired, and terrified, but they still managed to see the falling skyscrapers. Out of the 9/11 tragedy, people could accommodate the large-scale destruction of the building but could not bear the pain that came with those they viewed jumping from the crumbling building. Such consideration indicates that humans are naturally predisposed to sympathize with those in peril or agony since life is granted once, while towers can be reconstructed. Therefore, humanity plays a significant role in the tragedy.
Beard, Ann J. The Fourth State of Matter. The New Yorker, 1996.
Burn, Stephen J., and Mary K. Holland. Approaches to Teaching the Works of David Foster Wallace. Modern Language Assn., 2019.
Dark, Alice E. In the Gloaming: Stories. Simon & Schuster, 2001.
Leech, Clifford. Tragedy. Taylor & Francis, 2017.