Why did the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks break the book into three sections--"Life," "Death, and "Immortality"?

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Rebecca Skloot, the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks , split the book into three sections to humanize the story and help the reader understand the ethical issues involved with the scientific use of HeLa cells in research. Skloot takes time throughout her book to introduce Henrietta's...

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Rebecca Skloot, the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, split the book into three sections to humanize the story and help the reader understand the ethical issues involved with the scientific use of HeLa cells in research. Skloot takes time throughout her book to introduce Henrietta's family members and including their stories. As the reader, we can see how the loss of Henrietta and the other traumas they have experienced have impacted the family. The use of three sections ("Life", "Death", and "Immortality") helps Skloot reinforce her thesis that what happened to Henrietta was morally and ethically wrong and that the Lacks family is owed some kind of reparations.

In the section "Life," Skloot introduces the reader to the Lacks family, tells the story of Henrietta's diagnosis of cervical cancer, and ends the section by talking about her death. Skloot jumps the reader between Henrietta's timeline and her own experiences as she tries to learn more about the Lacks family and their general mistrust of reporters and white people interested in Henrietta's cells. This is also the section where Skloot begins to tell the reader about the success of the HeLa cells. While Henrietta was dying from her cancer, her cells were growing in George Gey's lab.

In the section "Death," Skloot takes us through Henrietta's death and its impacts on her family and the scientists hoping to develop her cells into a viable research cell line. George Gey, the researcher at Johns Hopkins, pestered the family into approving an autopsy so he could collect as many tumor samples as possible and see if he could get them to grow into more HeLa cells.

In the section "Immortality," Skloot tells the reader about how the Lacks family found out about HeLa cells and how they were connected to Henrietta. She also tells us how a reporter had published a book that quoted extensively from Henrietta's medical records without asking or talking to her family before publishing. Skloot goes on to tell us about the first time Henrietta's children ever see HeLa cells and how they live knowing that their mother's cells were taken without permission and are used around the world in scientific research. In this way, Henrietta (or part of her) lives on forever.

The three sections work together to highlight the mistreatment of the Lacks family and the systems caused issues for the family. These sections also help the reader break the narrative of Henrietta, the author, and the cell line into three distinct sections that are related in time, space, and theme.

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Rather than ordering the events chronologically, author Rebecca Skloot divides the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks into separate sections: "Life," "Death," and "Immortality." These larger sections, or chunks of the book, help to organize and group the chapters in a creative way.

The first section, "Life," traces Henrietta's early years. In this section, readers learn about when and where she was born, her mother and father, who she married, and how many children she had. The end of this section is a segue to the next section, where we learn about her diagnosis of cervical cancer.

The second section, "Death," is not just about Henrietta's death. It is also where readers learn about the ethical mistreatment of Henrietta that occurred when doctors removed her cancer cells to be used in experimental research without her consent. The result of the research led to a major breakthrough in creating what is known to be one the most important scientific breakthroughs: HeLa, an immortal cell line.

The third section, "Immortality," addresses the complications and advancement of research using Henrietta's cells—all of which happened without her or her family's permission. This section raises several questions not only about medical ethics but also about race, socioeconomic status, and gender.

Together, the three sections weave in and out of one another and come together to show the hardships and challenges her family was left to face.

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Rebecca Skloot, the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, split the book into three distinct sections--"Life," "Death," and "Immortality"--in order to describe the events of Henrietta's life (and the continued life of her cells) in a logical manner.

Thus, the "Life" sections deals with Henrietta's childhood, as she was raised by her grandfather on a farm which had once belonged to a slave owner.

The "Death" section naturally deals with Henrietta's death from cervical cancer and the removal of cells--without consent--from henrietta's cervix during a radiation treatment.

The "Immortality" section deals with the use of Henrietta's cells (which were the first human cells grown in a culture outside of the body) in over 60,000 scientific studies across the world. This section also addresses the immense ethical and financial issues that arose out of the use of these cells, which were removed and replicated without permission from Henrietta or her family.

Interspersed into the narrative is the story of how dramatically this theft of genetic material impacted her family, who received no compensation for these actions (in spite of the immense profits that the cells yielded through medical experimentation) and suffered emotionally upon learning of this violation. 

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