Lazarus Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Lazarus has just returned home after being dead for three days. Sumptuously dressed, he is surrounded by his sisters Mary and Martha, other relatives, and friends celebrating his resurrection. His three days in the grave have left marks on his body; there is a bluish cast to his fingertips and face, and there are cracked and oozing blisters on his skin. The deterioration of his body has been interrupted, but the restoration, his return to health, is incomplete. His demeanor, too, has changed. He is no longer joyous, carefree, and laughing, as he was before death. Now he is silent, neither laughing at the jokes of others nor offering such play himself. It is some time before those around him begin to notice these changes in him. No one asks him about his experience of death for a time. His friends and relatives are celebrating him as a symbol of life; their emphasis on his resurrection overshadows the other awful truth: His return to life has also made him their surest connection to death and its mysteries.

When one of the men asks Lazarus to tell them what he saw in death, he does not answer. The question is repeated, but still Lazarus does not answer. It is at this moment that the people notice the bluish cast to his complexion and his death sores, as well as his bloated body. They notice these things as Lazarus sits silent, and they feel his gaze on them as one of “destruction.” One by one the guests—and eventually Mary and Martha—depart.

Lazarus does not embrace his second life as he did his first. He is silent, cold, and indifferent to all that is around him. Those who fall under his gaze lose their own interest in life and slowly waste away. Those affected by his gaze feel no reason to do anything: There is no reason to eat, to play music, to go anywhere. Having broken the trail from death back to life, Lazarus is now the conduit through which death reaches humanity.

Gradually the desert envelops Lazarus’s life and enters his home. As his friends and family leave him, there is no one to care for him. Shunned by all, he finds that life contains no meaning at...

(The entire section is 862 words.)