Life And Death In Donald Barthelme's 'The School'

Decent Essays

Donald Barthelme’s story, “The School,” takes on an untraditional way of explaining life and the meaning behind it. Donald Barthelme was an influential writer during the mid-1900’s and was an especially important part of flash fiction. Many of his stories were very short. His approach at writing enabled him to highlight his themes in an unusual way. He uses escalation to emphasize the deaths of plants and herbs going all the way to the death of people. Michael Byers, an assistant professor of English at the University of Michigan, writes about “The School” saying, “curiosity, love, personal connection - all sources of solace in the face of death, and once that solace arrives, the dead world returns to life” (Byers). I agree with Byers that these things are sources of solace; however, I do not think Barthelme was trying to imply that after death we return to life. I believe Barthelme was trying to emphasize the meaning of life when answering the children’s question by saying, “life is that which gives meaning to life.” He was saying that death is a natural part of human life which exists all around us. Barthelme emphasized his theme of life by using the escalation of death throughout the story. I think Barthelme wanted readers to see that life and death are the basis for existence and that one cannot exist without the other; humor through escalation is brought into effect to create the harsh contrast of life versus death. As well as using humor and escalation to

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