How is Death a theme in the novel Banana Bottom?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Death is an underlying theme in the novel, subtle but present until the very end when it becomes a major part of Bita's maturation. Bita experiences violence in various ways, for example in the reaction of the community to her first sexual encounter. Thus, she always associates personal desires and lusts with violence, and is not entirely ready for the emotional responses of her friends and family when she refuses to play her assigned roles in society. Later, after a hurricane, death touches Bita directly for the first time, and she is changed by it:

He who had seemed to understand her all her life would understand now. Her spirit was finely balanced between the delicate sadness of death and the subdued joy of love and over all was the glorious sensation of life triumphant in love over death.
(McKay, Banana Bottom, Google Books)

Throughout the book Bita has her desires stifled, her individualistic thoughts fighting the push of societal expectation. After the death of her father, Bita discovers in her memories new meanings for herself and those people she loves; she is able to create her own life by her own hand instead of existing within the boundaries of others. The death event makes Bita aware of her own identity as it exists in life, and willing to go against expectation to find her own happiness. In this manner, the theme is not death itself, but instead the knowledge of death that allows personal fulfilment and improvement.

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