In a written exerpt from a letter about the cremation of his mother, George
Bernard Shaw recalls her "passage" with humor and understanding. The dark humor
associated with the horrid details of disposing of his mother's physical body are eventually
reconciled with an understanding that her spirit lives on. He imagines how she would find
humor in the bizarre event of her own cremation. The quality of humor unites Shaw and
his mother in a bond that transcends the event of death and helps Shaw understand that
her spirit will never die. The reader is also released from the horror of facing the
mechanics of the cremation process when "Mama's" own comments lead us to understand
that her personality and spirit will live on.
Shaw's diction is effective in conveying his mood and dramatizing the process of
cremation. The traditional words of a burial service "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" are not
altered for the cremation, the interior chamber "looked cool, clean, and sunny" as by a
graveside, and the coffin was presented "feet first" as in a ground burial.
aspects of a traditional burial service, Shaw's mood is revealed as ambivalent toward
cremation by imposing recalled fragments of ground burial for contrast. Strangely
fascinated, he begins to wonder exactly what happens when one is cremated. This mood
of awe is dramatized as he encounters several doors to observe in his chronological
investigation. He sees "a door opened in the wall," and follows the coffin as it "passed out
through it and vanished as it closed," but this is not "the door of the furnace." He finds
the coffin "opposite another door, a real unmistakable furnace door," but as the coffin
became engulfed in flame, "the door fell" and the mystery only continues an...