It is a universal reality that every living thing must die eventually. What sets humans apart from any animal, insect or being on this planet is our awareness of this inevitable end. Furthermore, what sets Americans apart from many other societies is the extensive amount of information available everyday within our country. This information fuels a constant, underlying awareness of crime, tragedy, and more specifically, death. As American literature is merely a reflection of American society, it can be concluded through reading several works that this constant, rudimentary fixation on death or dying is an unequivocally American theme. In several of the pieces we have read over the course of this past semester, a fear of or preoccupation with death is clearly evident throughout the texts.
In Don Delillo's book, White Noise, he confronts this awareness and the effects that it has on the daily lives of a typical American family. Delillo easily constructs a scene where the Gladney family is gathered in front of the television set watching the evening news. He writes, "there were floods, earthquakes, mud slides, erupting volcanoes. We had never before been so attentive to our duty, our Friday assembly- -Stephie, brought close to tears by a sitcom husband arguing with his wife, appeared totally absorbed in these documentary clips of calamity and death- (Delillo 64). This passage illustrates the engrossment of American society in the constant flow of information concerning death. The expanse of information offered to us is what feeds Americans' fear of that same demise.
Specifically, the fear of death seems to be based on two things: the presence and certainty of death and the uncertainty of what follows. Where does this fear come from and why is it so widespread? Sheldon Solomon, PH.D., professor of psychology at Brooklyn College in New York says, "Fear of death comes from the human evolution into intelligent creatures.