Expanding Views on Death: From Daylight to Darkness Donald Barthelme’s short story “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby’ dissects the concept of planning a death and fleshes out its many facets; specifically highlighting its less dark side. The brief plot revolves around a meeting among ten friends, Colby and the narrator included, who are planning to hang Colby because he “has gone too far”. It gives the reader a new outlook on death, citing how the concept is not wholly dark or sad because it can be proof of love and concern.
Likewise the lot exhibits how a planned death can bare a relationship and display the presence of true friendship. It also exposes how the loss of a loved one allows friends to effectively communicate their feelings and ideas. Barthelme’s characters and narative structure clearly show both the common and less acknowledged aspect of the planning of a death. The story proves that death can be positive in the sense that it can mirror how one is valued by others. This is seen through the characters of Colby’s friends and how they spare no expense in ensuring that the ceremony of his eath will be the best it can be.
They make an effort to make the event meaningful and execute their plans well. In the beginning of the story Colby worries about the expenditures, but his friends reassure him that the expense doesnt matter. Since he is going to die, they insist that the event be done with “a little bit of eclat”. They want to send him off with some style and go out of their way to do so; covering each part of the hanging. They hire musicians, buy drinks, make invitations, provide transportation for all workers and guests, and consider the location.
The entire discussion proves that Colby is truly loved, valued, and cared about because his friends want to give him the best, nothing less, even until death. What is more, Barthelme shows his readers that a planned death exposes a friendship. Colby’s friends rely solely on him to make the event a complete success. This is because there is a standing chance that Colby will back out at the last minute and not follow through with the hanging, embarrassing all his friends and puting their efforts to waste. However, because Colby adheres to their preparations and cooperates with he entire process, the event is carried out smoothly.
Colby’s friends place an “awful lot of the responsibility for the success of the affair on Colby himself” portraying that until death there is trust between him and his friends, and that there is a strong belief that they will not let each other down. This is evidence that a planned death bares a relationship naked and strips it down to its purest form. Aside from showing that death is proof of love and friendship, Barthelme depicts how planning a death can develop skills and is a platform that enables people to practice some important ompetencies.
These are communication and collaboration, which are useful and significant skills in life. These abilities are evident when each friend makes a contribution to the event of the hanging and gives insights as well. For example, Howard takes charge of the music and Pete questions the need of a hangman. limousines from his car-and-truck-rental business, while Hank suggests the use of wire instead of rope. The meeting proves that death can bring out the best in people. They are pushed to think, exchange ideas, present possible issues, work as a team, nd practice people skills.
In addition, they are motivated to share their talents and treasures. (Howard’s conducting skills, Harry’s car-and truck-rental business, Tomas’s knowledge on architecture, etc. ) Colby’s friends’ meticulous planning of his death and consideration of every detail of the event clearly embodies this. More than collaboration and communication, the planning of Colby’s death also promotes critical thinking. His friends view all options such as whether Colby should be hung by a gibbet or traditionally, by a tree, and whether he should be hung or executed by firing squad instead.
Moreover, they even take in account all possible slip-ups that may occur, and come up with contingency plans. The question of whether a hangman is necessary or not is brought up. The friends talk about the difficulty of finding a professional, and the issue of possibly hiring a desperate “money-hungry amateur who might bungle up the Job”. This idea that poses as a probable problem is solved when Colby chooses to be hung by a tree. His decision also solves the problem of the large expense of a gibbet. Thorough analysis and critical thinking were all practiced ecause of the meeting regarding Colby’s hanging.
Stepping away from the positive aspects, “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby’ also encapsulates the general points of planning a death and death itself through various elements of fiction. Barthelme gives the reader an idea of how death can be experienced around the world. The story is devoid of a concrete place or time. His use of an open ended setting embodies how death is universal and the planning of such can occur in any part of the globe, during any era, among any group of friends. This technique is imilar to one used by Shirley Jackson in her short story “The Lottery’.
Throughout the text there is also no dialogue; the narrator is simply sharing the exchange of words in the meeting with the reader. The lack of this element can be Barthelme’s way of helping readers fully understand that death and the planning of such is still difficult to discuss, despite its positive aspects. In relation to this, the author also uses a contrasting of tones. Colby’s friends are very casual in talking about killing him, but their language is formal because of direct and clear words, no slang hatsoever.
This is not only an entertainment factor, but also acts as a way to portray that death is treated seriously??”hence the formal tone??”but not directly. This is where the casual tone comes in, including the use of idioms??””passed away’, “kicked the bucket”, “Joined his maker”, etc??”or unclear language, which in this case is seen through the phrase “gone too far”. “Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby’ by Donald Barthelme displays a a general overview of death that can be related to by all people.
It also zooms in certain positive aspects of the planning of such, specifically the evidence of love, value for a person, friendship, trust, and promotion of people and thinking skills. These are all portrayed through Barhelme’s crafting of characters, the flow of the plot, setting, (in the lack of) dialogue, and the tone. Works Cited n. p. n. d. Web. 21 . Aug. 2013. “”Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby” Summary and Interpretation” AmericanLiteratureStudent. n. p. 8 May 2011. Web. 21 Aug. 2013. “The Lottery Setting” Shmoop. n. p. n. d. Web. 10 Sept. 2013.