Allusions, Myths, & Death Among Us

Part 1 – Allusions in A Dirty Job

  • The hellhounds, Mohammad and Alvin

Hellhounds,  a demonic dog of Hell, found in mythology or in fiction. They are often assigned to guard the entrance to the world of the dead or undertake other duties related to the afterlife or the supernatural, such as hunting down lost souls or guarding a supernatural treasure. In the book, Christopher Moore design to put 2 hellhounds beside Charlie’s daughter Sophie in order to protect her in part 2 chapter 13. The hellhounds help me understand the concept of dirty job in the book. Because the dirty job is swinging between life and death and it has the similar meaning with hellhounds who guard the entrance of death.

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(A conceptual graph of the hellhound. Photo Credit: Ravenwind137)

  •   Rachel, his wife dying by childbirth

In the first 2 chapters in the book, author talked about Charlie’s wife Rachel died for giving the birth to their first child Sophie. The allusion behind dying by childbirth is that even the mother dies, her child will inherit mother’s life. Within a chapter, Sophie is born and her mom Rachel dies, emphasizing the cycle of life and birth/death juxtaposition. After reading this part, I somehow understand Charlie’s emotions. He was sad and depress after the death of Rachel. But the newborn of Sophie gave him motivation and hope for future. Also imply to the main idea of dirty job. Being a death merchant, who always witness the cycle of death and life, Charlie became more calm in in front of death.

  • The first chapter is a reference to an Emily Dickinson poem

The title for the first chapter is “Because I could not stop for death – he kindly stopped for me”. This is a quote from American poet Emily Dickinson’s Because I could not stop for death. In the quote, the speaker remarks that she had been too busy to stop for Death, so in his civility, the death stopped for her. This could relate to the destiny of Rachel and this title is allusion to Rachel’s life. Charlie and Rachel just got their newborn baby and their happy life is just about to begin. However, death stopped for Rachel and took her away.

Part 2 – Re:Framing Allusion and Chinese Painting “Four Gentlemen”

  I studied Chinese painting since I was 8 years old and found out that there is a strong relationship betweeb allusion and Chinese painting.

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  (“Four Gentlemen”. Photo Credit: Wenyan Ma)

  The photo above is my project in Chinese painting style for art class. The title for this project is “Four Gentlemen”. If I present this to some educated Chinese, they will understand the meaning behind this project at first glance. Each painting in the project has a different meaning. Next, I want to talk about the allusion in this project.

  The Four Gentlemen in Chinese are refers to four plants: the plum, the orchid, the bamboo and the chrysantheum. The Four Gentlemen have been depicted in Chinese painting for more than a thousands years because of their refined beauty, more importantly the moral characters.

   The plum (top left in the photo above) is renowned for bursting into a riot of blossoms in the dead of winter and plum represents the winter. The demeanor and character of the plum serves as a metaphor for inner beauty and humble display under adverse conditions.

  The orchid (top right in the photo above) represents the spring. The beauty and grace of the orchid is fragile in form, with no violent tendencies. Like the plum blossom, its fragrance is never overpowering, symbolizing humility and nobility.

The bamboo (bottom left in the photo above) is the symbol of summer but also of strength, both physical and mental, as it will bend and sway in the severest of gales but does not break. The flexibility and strength of the bamboo stalk came to represent the human values of cultivation and integrity in which one yields but does not break. Especially the character that bamboo grows in a straight line. So bamboo is my favorite plant among the Four Gentlemen.

The chrysanthemum (bottom left in the photo above) represents fall season. It blooms late and in facing the coming of winter symbolizes people who maintain their virtue despite adversity and temptation.

  In China, we always compare people’s personality to the Four Gentlemen. For example, when we are discussing Hua Mulan (a legendary woman warrior from the Southern and Northern Dynasties of China who was originally described in a ballad known as the Ballad of Mulan. In the ballad, Hua Mulan takes her aged father’s place in the army), we can compare her personality to the chrysanthemum. The allusion is both of Hua Mulan and chrysanthemum share the character which they are not afraid of difficulties and full of courage. Using this allusion can help people understand other people’s personality and spirit better.

Re:Framing Death and Buddhism

So we are taking about death. People in China usually don’t like to discuss death because they simply just want to escape the fact that they are going to die someday. However, I think death is not only the end of a life, but also the start of another life.

I was born in a family which most of the family member are Buddhism. As I grew up and read more books about Buddhism, I start to understand how Buddhism explain death.

In my opinion, Buddhism’s views on death is like the life cycle of a piece of leaf. First the leaf grow from the branches of the tree. Then the leaf will be alive for days. At last, the leaf dies and drop out from the branches to the soil. The dead leaf will break down in the elements which provide tree nutrition. Leaf died but it is still alive in another condition and form. And that leaf’s life will keep going and going.

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(The life cycle of a leaf. Photo Credit: Coralise)

Buddhists commonly believe that life and death are a part of a cycle known as Samsara, in which one’s actions in this life and all previous incarnations of life lead to further reincarnation. Actually, we existed before we were born, and we will have another life after death. We will be reborn in another place and the cycle of life and death will continue endlessly.

Samsara and Karma are two interesting and important concepts of death in Buddhism. Samsara is the samsaric (greed, hate, delusion) in your mindit’s not really place. The idea of Samsara in Buddhism refer to the cycle of life, which incorporates birth, living, death and coming back to life. The term can be actually interpreted as “continuous movement.” Samsara is the constantly cycle of birth and death, where creatures push through six states of existence.  In this passgae, it provides detail explaination about the Samsara and there are some cool images about the wheel of life. I believe after read this you will have a deeper understanding for Samsara and death in Buddhism.

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(A common artistic representations of the Six States of Existence, Photo Credit: Tanka)

Karma is the Buddhist version of the law of cause and results. It shows that whatever you get from life is the thing that you sow. Every day gives people the chance to change their Karma, with the opportunity to do great or not to do great.  In Buddhism, whatever you did in this life will influence what you get to be in your next life. According to these, the cycle of Samsara is driven by the law of Karma. This website talks about some information about the karmic results and the relationship between Karma and nirvana.

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(A classic quote from Buddha about death. Photo Credit: Larry Chang)

Overall, Buddhism’s concept of Samsara and Karma encourage people to be kind and grateful in their daily life in order to accumulate good virtue for next life. Buddhism taught me that don’t be afraid of death, just need to live kindly everyday. Value each moment, appreciate my life!