Cremation as a theme in on of George Bernard Shaw's books

Essay by Daemon1High School, 12th gradeA+, January 1996

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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.

In selecting

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...