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What The Living Do by Marie Howe

Human beings are overpowered by the feeling of grief and succumb to their depressing thoughts. Grief is caused by numerous factors in one’s life. Individuals, who are caught in depressing circumstances, respond to their situations in different ways. But when one loses a loved one, their reactions are near about the same. The grief caused by the death of a loved one can cause immense grief and sorrow. The poem What The Living Do by Marie Howe depicts these feelings of grief.

The author has lost her brother whom she loved deeply. The author is struggling to the cope with her loss, as she finds it difficult to manage her routine life. The author’s feelings are similar to my feelings which I was experiencing after the death of my grandmother with whom I shared an affectionate and loving relation. In this poem, the author is remembering her brother and telling her problems to him. But in the end, she accepts the fact that one has to overcome the grief and continue living one’s life.

Through this poem, Howe conveys the message that instead of succumbing to the grief in one’s life, one should accept the grief as part of his/her life and lead life with optimism. Reading this poem aided me in overcoming the grief that I had carried in my heart for months, after the death of my grandmother. The Loss At the start of the poem, the author is speaking to her brother as if he is alive and listening to her problems. “Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.

And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. ” (Howe lines 1-3). This shows that the author is still reluctant to accept the fact that her brother is dead. Her desire to share her problems with her brother is so intense that she fails to realize that her brother cannot hear her. The loss of her brother has affected the author very much and his memories keep disturbing her. The memories of the time spent with her brother are coming back to her and hindering her from carrying on with her life.

The loss of her brother has changed the author’s attitude of looking at the life. Life The author mentions in her poem about the numerous things living people have to do in their lives. “For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking, I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve. ” (Howe Lines 6-8). The author thinks that living people have to continue with their lives carrying out mundane things.

By writing about her daily chores, the author wants to point out the difference between her life and her brother’s state. Being alive, she is forced to continue with her monotonous life whereas her brother is free from all these things. The author also mentions about her longing which makes her to wish for more in her life. “I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it. Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning. ” (Howe Lines 9-10).

The author thinks that human beings are never satisfied with their lives but as her brother is dead, he is freed himself from the bonds of desire. “What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss–we want more and more and then more of it. ” (Howe Lines 11-12). The death of her brother has brought various changes in the way that author looks at her life. She views life where people are forced to carry out their routine work even if they disliked doing those chores.

She also believes that human beings are never happy in their lives, as they always desire for more. The author’s views about life reflect her pessimistic attitude towards life. She thinks that death can free the living people from the sufferings caused by one’s desires in life. The author is of the opinion that her life is dreary compared to her brother’s state. The author’s grief at the death of her brother is visible from her attitude towards life and death. She is unable to cope with her grief and this is the reason why she is developing a negative attitude towards her life.

The author is incapable of doing simple thinks like calling a plumber to fix her kitchen sink. Without her brother nearby, the author is feeling depressed and helpless. The feelings experienced by the author are her response to a depressing event in her life. The sorrow that has gripped her is influencing her actions, thoughts and behavior. Acceptance Throughout the poem, the author is writing about the mundane things one has to do in life and the suffering caused by desires. But her thoughts change considerably, the moment she sees her image in the mirror.

“But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass……and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless: I am living. I remember you. ” (Howe Lines 13-16). This image reminds her that she is alive and carrying the memories of her brother in her heart and mind. The acceptance of her brother’s death and the grief relieves her from her suffering. She realizes that she is happy to be alive, and this realization makes her to recognize grief as a part of her life.

She discovers the joy of living and rejoices the memories of the time spent with her brother. The author conveys a message through the expression of her feelings and thoughts after the death of her brother. Although initially the author develops a negative attitude towards her life, owing to the death of her brother, in the end she accepts the grief and delights in the fact that she is alive. The author puts forward her message that accepting the grief in one’s life will aid the individual in overcoming the feelings of sorrow and depression.

Death of a loved one causes immense pain and suffering but when the person accepts the grief, he/she will start viewing at the depressing event from a different perspective. Owing to this poem, I realized that instead of thinking about the death of my grandmother, I can aim to keep her alive in my memories. Conclusion The poem What The Living Do by Marie Howe depicts the sorrow and pain of the author who is grappling to come to terms with the death of her brother. She is living but finding it difficult to carry out her routine work. But her attitude is changed when she appreciates the fact that she is alive and remembering her brother.

This poem made me to realize the value of my grandmother’s memories which now I cherish, and it also taught me to accept the grief as a part of my life. The poem has instilled in me the faith that death can take away your loved ones from you but it cannot hinder you from delighting in the memories of the time you spend with your loved one. The poem had a soothing effect on my troubled mind and aided me in relieving my grief. Works Cited Howe, Marie. What The Living Do. 9 March 2009. http://www. theatlantic. com/unbound/poetry/atlpoets/howe9404. htm

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