Reactions to Death in the End

A common occurrence with these novels is the protagonist witnessing the death of another right before the end of said novel. With Paul it was his friend Kat, for Nellie it was the other cooks, and for Henry it was (spoiler alert) Catherine. What I found interesting was the way they reacted to the deaths.

Paul spent the time in denial, acting as if Kat had merely fallen unconscious and eventually walked away numbly. Nellie was completely numb to it the entire time. Henry was the only one to completely break down internally, bargaining with God to ensure Catherine’s survival (pg 330).

It’s a common theme that war experience changes a person. Here’s an opening for discussion: how different was Henry’s experience with the war in comparison to Nellie and Paul’s, in that he reacted in a such a way to Catherine dying? Was it the war experience, or was the in-the-moment situation the deciding factor for his reaction?

165 thoughts on “Reactions to Death in the End

  1. For me, I think that Catherine’s death affected Henry as much as it did because that was his love. That was who he had found comfort in during the war and when everything was bad. We joked about how crazy their relationship was, but I feel like it was a distraction and comfort from everything that had happened during the war. I feel that for Henry, this relationship was the silver lining. He lost the baby and then lost Cat, he abandoned everyone he served with and will never know what truly happened to them and even if he saw them again they could potentially treat him differently for being a deserter. At the end of the novel, Henry literally has nothing, he has lost it all. But, strangely enough, having denounced religion throughout the majority of this book, he is now trying to communicate with God which makes me wonder where Henry is spiritually, especially after the death of Cat. I know this does not really answer the questions you posed, but this is how this part came across to me.

    • Also I feel like Henry feels guilty, which is why Cat’s death breaks him. He got her pregnant after Helen warned him not to, saying that it would ruin Cat’s life. They didn’t get married although they discussed it over and over which means Cat died without having a legal husband, their baby would never be legitimate although it passed away as well, there are all these factors that fall back on Henry and I think he feels guilty and responsible for Cat being in this situation.

  2. FH’s loneliness is constantly reiterated throughout the novel, and maybe its an attempt to foreshadow the pessimistic end of the novel. Cat’s death is really drawn out, too; with moments of hope that are signaled to FH and then absolute despair when he prays to god.

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