The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks Essay

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The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks

Through our life experiences, we all have a different story or perception of an event that we envision to be the truth. The question is, how do we know what is the truth? In the novel by Russell Banks, "The Sweet Hereafter" tells a handful of stories from different points of view providing contrasting angles and meanings to the same event. As these stories interlock with each other and intertwine together the accounts of how each of these people cope with this tragedy, Banks helps readers explore the complexities of grief. In "Books of The Times; Small-Town Life After a Huge Calamity", Michiko Kakutani feels Banks draws on the school bus accident as a catalyst for enlightening the lives of the
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Billy has lost a sense of love as death has faced him in the eyes once too many. Billy deals with his pain by turning to alcohol abuse, he cannot deal with his mourning, "Sometimes it's not as if they have died so much as that I myself have died and become a ghost." (43). From Dolores and Billy, the central theme is slowly revealed.

The central character in which the story takes off upon is Mitchell Stephens. He is drawn into this case by his own anger. He has his own sense of suffering and confusion toward his own daughter. Stephens is torn by his urge to save her and his fear that he can't possibly do so. He recalls the flashback of his little girl as a toddler at a near death experience and him as her father while singing to her, held her life in his own hands prepared to perform an emergency tracheotomy. And in that way, Stephens' own experience bonds together with the nightmare of those pain stricken parents: the ultimate unbearable burden of caring for children where strength will be tested beyond its limits. Stephen's own daughter in whom he loves dearly has been taken away from him although she is not dead; she is practically gone out of his life. He is pissed off, "enough rage and helplessness, your love turns to steamy piss." (101). Stephen is set to find the cause, something or someone to blame for their misfortunes and to rage against whatever forces took their child, "I don't know if it was the Vietnam war…I don't know
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