Death is pervasive in A Graveyard for Lunatics. Maximus Films is located "across the way" from Green Glades cemetery. The novel opens with: "Once upon a time there were two cities within a city. One was light and one was dark." The light city is the motion picture studio, the dark one the cemetery. As the novel begins, the studio is becoming like the cemetery: It is dying.
Buried in Green Glades are many former members of the motion picture industry. The cemetery had begun as a real estate scam, with the studio profiting from burying its people there. The most illustrious of the cemetery's dead is James Charles Arbuthnot, former head of Maximus Films, and the man who made the studio successful. He died in an auto accident on Halloween in 1934. The plot of A Graveyard for Lunatics accelerates when its narrator, a new screenplay writer for the studio, sees Arbuthnot on a ladder looking out over the cemetery's high wall on Halloween, twenty years after his death.
Death is a common theme in literature, and it is a challenge for any writer to present it originally. Bradbury's endeavor succeeds; many of the living characters in the novel are dying, and some actually die. However, he adds an interesting twist to his story by bringing the dead to life. Thus, not only is Maximus Films becoming like Green Glades, but Green Glades is becoming like Maximus Films. In fact, one of the occupants of Green Glades is actually running the studio, obscuring the distinction between the living and the dead.
The theme of death is further enriched by the novel's portrayal of those who should be dead but are instead vital, active, and lively. One such character is Constance, an aging former film star who skinny dips — and in fact, is naked most of the time — bounces about with vigor, and in general behaves as if she were a happy-go-lucky young woman. Instead of the cliched actress mooning about her lost days of glory, Bradbury presents a woman for whom living well is what is most important. Constance, the detective Crumley, and Blind Harry all serve as reminders that the past is dead and that the present is for living.
Many of the people at Maximus Films are preoccupied with the past, another theme of A Graveyard for...
(The entire section is 583 words.)