The chapter for next week about the embodiment of death – in terms of finding ground between the ‘body’ and the ‘self’ – resonated with me for various reasons. One of the biggest things I noticed was the unwillingness to deny that a person’s identity has left the body after death, which is a theme that has become prominent in various science fiction stories. Iconic characters such as the vampire or zombie relate the idea that after death we do not have to give up our bodies. Reanimated bodies, such as Frankenstein’s monster, also seem to feed into a belief that the remains of a body can be recycled to create new life (or something similar). Furthermore, the father in Pet Sematary who buried his dead son’s body within the grounds that were known to reanimate bodies did so to cling to the fact that his son would return once again after identity and body united.
These representations in literature and media walk a line between trying to beat death and keeping claim over your body, but ultimately there is something in the characters that lacks humanness. Vampires, zombies, Frankenstein’s monster, and the little dead boy from Pet Sematary all lost their identities after death and were changed completely. Something about the mysterious nature of death – one that we cannot completely have knowledge about, yet we all will experience – feeds into these representations of bodies that face the unknown. The characters definitely find an imbalance between the ‘self’ and ‘body’ being continuously connected, but for the most part these characters illuminate a world where bodies are meat and fodder. Identity may change after the cross between life and death, but the body will withstand composition (albeit disfigured and sutured, I suppose).