“They do not go through death as dramatic as ancient Greek tragedy…”

This sentence leaves a lot to be desired. We’ll have to set aside the question of whom “They” refers to, since I can’t readily associate this Horror with any particular assignment. It might have been a “euthanasia” topic, since the sentiment bears some resemblance to the comment used for this previous blog. Perhaps the context isn’t crucial, though.

To what does “dramatic” refer? Grammatically, it must be modifying “death,” giving us a dramatic death, its dimension of drama being comparable with Greek tragedy (really dramatic, worthy of being put on the stage). My writer might be trying to say, though, that the deaths in Greek tragedy are dramatic, and our “they” don’t go through the same kind (dramatic) of death. Or he might be thinking of the way Greek tragic figures meet death, complete with apostrophes, extensive lamentations, and prolonged offstage suffering as described by messengers: “they” don’t die this dramatically—in which case, however, he should have used the adverb, “dramatically,” instead of the adjective. He doesn’t really make his meaning clear, beyond the notion that death can be very dramatic but “theirs” isn’t.

Still, the sentence is merely vague, not actually funny. That comes in the next sentence:

“They do not go through death as dramatic as ancient Greek tragedy. Modern Americans usually just shoot themselves.”

And this, of course, is where I lost it. As in the earlier blog I’ve linked to above, with its “simply commit suicide,” this writer makes death a casual act with the “just” in “just shoot themselves.” I imagine he intends to show how undramatic this death is, compared with the ancient-Greek-tragedy experience; but his wording makes it all so offhand, like just going shopping, for instance, or just standing there, or just writing any old thing.

I also am tickled by the notion that shooting oneself is somehow typical of modern behavior, and American behavior. It becomes almost the thing. Or, alternatively, it becomes a sign of how far we have fallen from the classical ideal. Take your pick.

Without its context, the sentence doesn’t even make clear that we’re talking only of suicide in both Greek and American cases. Certainly one can go through a dramatic death, or go through death dramatically, in the case of natural disasters, terrible accidents, and various diseases (note all the drama of those languid romantic demises the heroines of various 19th-century poems and novels experience as they succumb to consumption). If the reader allows that general idea, of death rather than specifically death by suicide, then the impression the second sentence leaves is of Americans all over the place shooting themselves rather than dying in some other way. Well, I guess we have enough guns in circulation to make that possible; but it would make for a pretty messy country, and a daily routine punctuated by gunshots from every direction.

Be careful out there.

About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

One response to ““They do not go through death as dramatic as ancient Greek tragedy…”

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