Life and death, gaining and losing…The most abstract and, at the same time, the most important things in life. I do not say “human life” because not only human beings, although they also do, feel the pain of a loss of something and the pleasure of gaining something else. Not only human beings are destined to die and have no power over death. Nature itself goes through the permanent circle of birth and death, and all the phenomena of nature obey its rules including animals, insects, plants. They all live with some purposes although they know about the inevitability of death.
In this essay, it would be not out of place to take our time and consider the problem of losing and gaining because this problem concerns everyone irrespective of his or her age, race, or social position. To make the essay as informative and specific as possible we will apply for the help of two geniuses of the world’s literature. They are Virginia Woolf and Mark Twain. These prominent writers of fiction, novels, and short stories are known for their incredible literary skills and unique manner of writing. The American writer Mark Twain is famous for his picturesque and true-to-life narrations, anti-religious publications, and lots of humorous and sarcastic works. But another side of his talent is a gift of a philosopher who considers the fundamental problems of mankind. Virginia Woolf is a British master of novel and essay writing, known as a prophet of modernism in literature. Her works concern the same, common for people, problems of living and dying and they belong to the masterpieces of the world’s literature. We are going to consider the short story by Mark Twain titled “Two views of the Mississippi River” and the essay by Virginia Woolf “The Death of a Moth” which will help us to understand better the essence of the phenomenon of living and dying in nature.
The story by Mark Twain deals with the issue of gaining and losing something which is very important for everyone. His short story depicts the change of the author’s mind after he loses the ability to perceive the looks of the Mississippi River and can only view it as an object of reality without understanding the picturesqueness of the landscape. He perceives a log floating by the river only as a rotten piece of wood although earlier he saw a symbol of the course of time in it. Twain compares his misfortune with the state of a doctor who lost the gift of enjoying life and who sees only the features of a certain disease in the flushing cheeks of a young girl. This doctor is no more able to perceive real beauty and Mark Twain can not see things that used to make him happy anymore. This feeling of an irrevocable loss fills the author’s heart with pain that cannot be cured (Twain, 1982).
Virginia Woolf’s essay “The Death of a Moth” reveals another aspect of the topic we are considering in this essay. Her work depicts the story of a moth that struggled heroically for its life but could not win death, the phenomenon that no one has powers over, and lost the most valuable thing – life. The skills with which Woolf tells the story are incredible and make the reader feel like he or she is present at the event touched upon in the essay. A little tiny moth displays immense power in fighting for his future and the author wishes this moth was born in some other shape for it to have a better fate. But death is implacable and the moth dies not having got out of the windowpane. It gained incredible power which was unbelievable for such a tiny creature but lost its life (Woolf, 1974).
All this leads to the following conclusion which adds no optimism to the reader but reflects the real state of things in the life of every living being. All creatures are destined to experience this circle of constantly gaining and losing things and feelings, and what we all gain with birth and lose with physical death is our life.
Twain, Mark. Mark Twain : Mississippi Writings : Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi, Huckleberry Finn, Pudd’nhead Wilson. New York: Library of America, 1982.
Woolf, Virginia. The death of a Moth and other essays. New York: Harvest Books, 1974.