Examples of acts of violence in literature that do not result in someone's death.Examples of acts of violence in literature that do not result in someone's death.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that this is a very interesting and powerful question.  I would say that the abuse Sethe endured in Morrison's Beloved is an example of violence/ cruelty that did not result in her own death.  The implications were as severe, as it prevented full spiritual acknowledgment of herself and others around her.  The fact that it did not immediately result in her own death is what was so haunting about it, proving Morrison's powerful depiction of slavery's cruelty.  In the short story, "My Son the Fanatic" by Hanif Kureishi, the concluding scene is when the father violently thrashes his son, who has become a devout follower of Islam.  The story ends with the son smirking as he is being beaten by his father and asking:  "Now, who's the fanatic?"  I think my last example of violence in literature that does not result in someone's death would be the police beating and enhanced interrogation of Saladin Chamcha in Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses."  Saladin is abused and treated violently through both words and actions.  Yet, he does not die, although the character certainly wishes that he did.  Rather, he is forced to endure the humiliation as a testimony to how England treated people of color in the 1980s.

These instances are examples where violence is perpetrated without death being a result.  Yet, for each character, the perceptions of their worlds are forever changed.

dalepowell1962 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question proved more difficult than I thought.  I did come up with "Revelation", a popular short story by Flannery O'Connor.  In this story, Mrs. Turpin is attacked in a doctor's office, by a girl that she has dubbed "the ugly girl".  Mrs. Turpin takes a bash to the head, but she does not die.  The act of violence does, in fact, lead to her "revelation".

JD Salinger's A Catcher in the Rye has Holden Caulfield involved in a number of altercations (one notably for not paying a prostitute and he has to deal with her pimp) that do not result in his death.

The only other examples that come to mind are the acts of violence toward children in Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  I am not counting any type of physical punishment to children or adults- this would lengthen the list quite a bit. as it would include a number of spankings and floggings from earlier times.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Naturalistic novel of Stephen Crane, "Maggie, a Girl of the Streets" certainly is rife with violence long endured by characters.  In this novel set in the Bowery of New York City, Maggie Johnson struggles to survive in her brutal enviornment.  She, along with her brother Jimmie, endure beatings by their alcohol mother.  As a child, Jimmie suffers continuous assaults by a gang from nearby Devil's Row as he alone defends his street when his companions run off.  When they return, Jimmie fights with them until his father arrives and pulls them off him; however, his father subsequently kicks Jimmie.  After Jimmie arrives home, his drunken mother proceeds to beat him herself.

Despite all the physical abuse he receives, Jimmie reaches adulthood albeit as a hardened man who has "clad his soul in armor."  Maggie, of course, has her share of abuse as well as she has had to work on the streets in order to survive.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Violence is used in literature for a variety of purposes. Sometimes it is used to create sympathy for victims and understanding for why they are troubled. Sometimes it is used for the same purpose for the perpetrator of the violence, or for a bystander forced to be a witness. Violence can be physical, mental, or emotional.

Examples of books--A Clockwork Orange, many of Shakespeare's works, To Kill a Mockingbird. One of Orson Scott Card's books (Seventh Son?) has a terrible bit about kids kept in a closet for years. Violence of a different kind.

joe30pl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I was about to suggest A Clockwork Orange. Alex's assault on the old bum is brutal but not fatal. Likewise, Alex's own assault at the hands of the police.

And yes, Shakespeare's works are filled with blood and violence.

Speaking of Orson Scott Card, I beleive it was Ender's Game which had Ender being beaten almost to death by a gang of bullies, plus his tortures at the hands of his older brother.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Touching Spirit Bear was a novel 6 or 7 years back that my students loved. The main character nearly beat another young man to death. As a consequence he was sent to an uninhabited island and required to live and communicate with nature (other things were involved too.) The idea was that this process would purge the violence and help heal that which was driving him towards rage. As I said, my students loved itl

charcunning eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Color Purple is a good example of this; Celie, the protagonist, is physically, verbally and mentally abused by her husband, Mister_________.  In this book, Harpo tries to use violence to quell Sophia's "manly" nature, but she, in turn, uses violence on him.

Also, Huck Finn is abused by his father, but does die.


teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie is the victim of domestic abuse by her husbands.  She endures the beatings, but she is the one who comes out strong in the end.  Her last husband Tea Cake does die at the end of the novel, but it is not a direct result of violence (although I suppose one could argue that he may have deserved his death because he treated Janie harshly).

epollock | Student

That was even a question on the AP English Lit exam a few years. The question asked students to relate scenes of violence and death to the theme of the story and explain the significance of the particular scene. Most of Shakespeare's plays have people that are wounded and maimed.