Mavis Gallant presents us with a disconcerting view of death in the short story “From the Fifteenth District,” where dying is not a salvation from the pains of life but where the dead are forced to suffer eternally. In this story, the author sets out three distinct cases of ‘haunting,’ except that these hauntings are reported by the dead about the living. Major E. Travella, killed during World War I, is angry that he is being exploited by the church and the public. Mrs. Ibrahim is upset that her doctor and social worker are fighting over her death. Finally, Ms. Essling is frustrated that she is unable to get on with her ‘life’ after death because of her husband. All three of these individuals are harboring anger and hostility after death and are unable to move on and rest in peace.
Major Emery Travella feels as if the church is trying to capitalize on his death. When the Major visits the church for Communion he realizes that the congregation is not there to pay tribute to God but instead, “the congregation sits, hushed and expectant straining to hear [his] footsteps” (282) which signal his haunting of the church. The Major is upset that the church is allowing the congregation to make a mockery of the church by devoting their time to him instead of the Communion which should be the reason they are there. The church is also trying to profit by the Major’s haunting by allowing cameras and tape recorders into their place of prayer. Travella feels that the church is sacred and is supposed to be seen as a place of worship, not a place to record abnormal phenomena. Major E. Travella feels that he is not being respected by the congregation, instead, he is being insulted by people only caring about him because he is a ghost, not because of who he was as a living person.
Mrs. Ibrahim is bothered that her doctor and social worker cannot settle their differences in opinion in their accounts of her death. She does not see the point of fighting over her because she is no longer living and has died of natural causes. They are both lying to save themselves from punishment, and even though no one was at fault, they were both trying to place the blame on the other.
The Fish Gone Fishin’
The Fish – Gone Fishin’
“The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop is saturated with vivid imagery and abundant description, which help the reader visualize the action. Bishop’s use of imagery, narration, and tone allow the reader to visualize the fish and create a bond with him, a bond in which the reader has a great deal of admiration for the fish’s plight. The mental pictures created are, in fact, so brilliant that the reader believes incident actually happened to a real person, thus building respect from the reader to the fish.
Initially the reader is bombarded with an intense image of the fish; he is “tremendous,” “battered,” “venerable,” and “homely.” The reader is sympathetic with the fish’s situation, and can relate because everyone has been fishing. Next, Bishop compares the fish to familiar household objects: “here and there / his brown skin hung in strips / like ancient wallpaper, / and its pattern of darker brown / was like wallpaper;” she uses two similes with common objects to create sympathy for the captive. Bishop then goes on to clearly illustrate what she means by “wallpaper”: “shapes like full-blown roses / stained and lost through age.” She uses another simile here paired with descriptive phrases, and these effectively depict a personal image of the fish. She uses the familiar “wallpaper” comparison because it is something the readers can relate to their own lives. Also the “ancient wallpaper” analogy can refer to the fish’s age. Although faded and aged he withstood the test of time, like the wallpaper. Bishop uses highly descriptive words like “speckled” and “infested” to create an even clearer mental picture. The word “terrible” is used to describe oxygen, and this is ironic because oxygen is usually beneficial, but in the case of the fish it is detrimental. The use of “terrible” allows the reader to visualize the fish gasping for breaths and fighting against the “terrible oxygen,” permitting us to see the fish’s predicament on his level. The word frightening does essentially the same thing in the next phrase, “the frightening gills.” It creates a negative image of something (gills) usually considered favorable, producing an intense visual with minimal words. Another simile is used to help the reader picture the fish’s struggle: “coarse white flesh packed in like feathers.” This wording intensifies the reader’s initial view of the fish, and creates a visual, again, on the reader’s level.
Bishop next relates to the fish on a personal basis: “I looked into his eyes.