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Grief And Williams Essay Research Paper In

Grief And Williams Essay, Research Paper

In C. K. Williams’ "Grief," the speaker explores the all too common

experience of losing a loved one. The speaker describes the pain involved in

sitting helplessly by, only able to watch, while another human being slowly

withdraws into death. The poem "Grief," like many of C.K. Williams’

poems, is a maelstrom of memories, thoughts, emotions, and other human

experiences. In this particular poem, the speaker is torn by the slow death of

his elderly mother. His attempts to console himself and his family leads him to

believe that she has lived a full life, and is now released from her suffering,

headed toward a place of serenity and repose. How does this phrase "peace

of the earth," (32) suggest a release from the suffering of dying? In the

poem entitled "Grief," by C. K. Williams, the reader is taken through

one man’s painful experience of watching his mother’s slow death. Williams is

renowned for his ability to capture the emotions and concepts of the human

spirit. Perhaps The Boston Globe’s critic, Jonathan Aaron, put it best in his

review, stating: A matchless explorer of the burdens of consciousness, C. K.

Williams has always written brilliantly about human pain, that which we inflict

upon others and upon ourselves, and that which we experience in dreading what

we’re fated for. Williams does not dispute that death is not a natural thing, in

fact it is something that we are all "fated for", however he attempts

to illustrate the pain and human emotion that are associated with death. In the

poem "Grief," Williams is also successful in demonstrating the

transition from the anguish experienced while a loved one withdraws into death,

to the eventual rest the deceased enter. The phrase "peace of the

earth" is suggestive of the body’s final resting place, in which the soul

is liberated from the body in death, and the individual experiences a release

from suffering. Throughout the poem, the speaker attempts to identify and

understand exactly what grief is. His mother’s suffering torments him, and when

she finally comes to death she enters the peace of the earth. The word peace

means a state of tranquillity of quiet. A state of such tranquillity and quiet,

like that which is associated with death. When one is dead, it is believed that

the body is laid to rest and the soul is freed to a state of tranquillity. The

word peace also refers to a relief from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or

emotions, and harmony in personal relations. These meanings can be applied in

two very differing situations. On the one hand, it is the deceased mother who

comes to experience peace through death, however, on the other hand the son too

undergoes a sense of peace or calming sense of mind after his mother’s suffering

has ended. In this poem, Williams also focuses on the symbolism of life and

death in association with the word earth. In reality, the word earth denotes

soil. Yet In all practicality, this reference to the soil in which the dead are

interred has, however, a more symbolic meaning — the sphere of mortal life. The

mind frame that Williams sets is one where the earth is a mortal world in which

physical suffering exists and the body is unprotected against it. Eventually the

body gives way to death, and the final outcome of the "mortal earth"

is a death that delivers us from suffering into peace. Many religions identify

earth with the human body and its origin. The word earth also literally means

the mortal human body, and in faiths such as the Christian tradition, man is

believed to have been borne of ashes [earth], and to ashes he will return. Thus

is Williams’ argument that death’s inevitability has caused the grieving process

to become such a normality that we are often unsure as to whether we even

experience it. Other figurative language used in this poem that can be directly

correlated to Williams’ depiction and identification of grief, is the phrase

"countenance of loss" (32). These words are portray the demeanor of

has suffered the loss of another, and undergone the grieving process. The

countenance, or mental composure, is one of suffering and anguish which results

from the loss of the loved one. Death’s natural occurrence is one that affects

us all. Whether its influence is felt personally, or through the suffering of

others, the greatest endurance against death’s melancholy is the cleansing

process of grieving.

Aaron, Jonathan, review of The Vigil, by C.K. Williams, The Boston Globe.

Williams, C. K. "Grief." In The Vigil, 29-32. New York: The Noonday

Press, 1998.