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    Comparative Essay of Virginia Woolf and Earnest Hemingway

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    We can not escape it for it is all our fates, we can not bargain with it for it has nothing more to offer us than the nothingness it gives. We will never be able to conquer the overpowering force of death. The comparison of Virginia Woolf and Earnest Hemingway’s writing on death is one of sure interest. They both use such different techniques to portray the same message-that death can not be defeated and that no one can escape it.

    In Virginia Woolf’s piece, “Death of a moth”, she uses a day time moth, fluttering between the pains of a window sill and eventually coming to its death, to symbolize the struggle of life and death. In Earnest Hemingway’s piece, “A clean well-lighted place”, he uses an old, deaf man drinking at a caf, whilst two waiters comment of his life, to symbolize the three stages of life, them being birth, living and death.

    The comparison of symbolization used in both writings delivers powerful imagery for the reader. We can see this is Woolf’s piece by how she uses the moth to represent a model human who appreciates its place on this earth, no matter how insignificant it is. She makes use of literally techniques to convey a struggle of life and death, even though this is a useless battle as death will always triumph. We can see this by how the moth, which is happy with his life, fluttering around like he is no less than the human watching him, even though he is an insignificant creature, falls while in flight, but refuses to give in to the inevitable, death. The moth regains his feet, but is quickly over come with the nothingness of death.

    In Hemingway’s piece, he uses symbolization to represent the progressive phases of life. He does this by using three different characters, the deaf old man, the younger waiter and the older waiter. The deaf old man symbolizes death and how it offers nothing, but takes everything. The older waiter symbolizes living and how we have to go through the challenges of life in order to have compassion and understanding for others. The young waiter symbolizes the youth of life and how the young live only for today, with no concern for tomorrow.

    The theme in both pieces is closely related, being that both are conveying that death eventually takes all who are living, , with no exceptions. Virginia Woolf shows this through a moth and how, no matter how hard this little creature struggled and fought, the plague of death got him in the end. “It was superb this last protest, and so frantic that he succeeded in righting himself.” “The body relaxed and instantly grew stiff. The struggle was over. The insignificant little creature now knew death”

    We can see she uses the line, “The rooks too were keeping one of their annual festivities; soaring round the tree tops until it looked as if a vast net with thousands of back knots in it had been cast up into the air; which, after a few moments sank slowly down upon the trees until every twig seemed to have a knot at the end of it” Woolf is just stating here that no one gets away. We all have the same fates. Death is inescapable. Earnest Hemingway shows a deeper meaning behind death than the fact that it takes all living beings. He demonstrates the little compassion and understanding the youth have for death and those walking its path. “I am sleepy now. I never get to bed before three o’ clock. He should have killed himself last week.”

    The younger waiter in “A clean well-lighted place”, does not show compassion for this old, deaf man who is on the road to death, but is rather impatient with the man, not even willing to give him, only one more drink and a few more minutes in a clean, well-lit place than that, that the old man is use to. The older waiter however, shows compassion and he understands the difference and value of a “well-lighted” place for all those who need it. “I am one of those who like to stay late at the caf…”, “…with all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need light for the night.” He knows that he too will be in their position quite soon and he does this, because he wants that same light to support him through those dark nights.

    The tone of Hemingway’s piece creates the emotions of, anger, sorrow, love, joy and contempt. He uses the contrast of light and dark to create shadows, which here symbolize the indecision of life and death. , “…man sat in the shadow the leaves of the trees made against the electric light.” we notice how Earnest Hemingway talks of a man sitting in the shadows, not in a well-lit area, even though, most of the caf is well-lighted. The man is trapped in the shadows and when the he attempts to step into the darkness, by taking his own life, he is cut down by his niece, who is does not let him enter that nothingness.

    When the man tries to step back into the light, he is cast out by the younger waiter, who almost alienates him, by forcing him to leave the only company and light he seems to have, that being the company of the two waiters working at the. Virginia Woolf makes use of tone in her piece to create emotions of pity, happiness, joy and sorrow. The fact that the moth displays that he has so much to live for, but in reality he is just an insignificant creature. The moth can not really be called a moth as he does not possess the true characteristics of a moth and so you feel pity for him as he is an outcast of his own species. When you read more about this creature you start to feel happiness and joy for him because, the fact that he does not belong anywhere does not bug him; he carries on with life, not minding the insignificant role he has been dealt in this world.

    Virginia Woolf’s writing compared to Earnest Hemingway’s writing is very different but because of the theme, being death, the two pieces are very interesting to compare. They deliver the same message in completely different ways, using different literary techniques. Hemingway makes use of dialogue in his writing, where as Woolf chooses not too, but they both convey an equally powerful message-Death can not be cheated no matter what we do, or how we live.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Comparative Essay of Virginia Woolf and Earnest Hemingway. (2017, Nov 22). Retrieved from

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