Death Before Dying

“Denial, Silence, Fear, and Fatalism have stemmed from the construction of persons living with Aids as being “Dead Before Dying””(Niehaus, 845). This incurable disease attacks the immune system, and continues to rip your body to threads. Your body continues to weaken until you lose the functions of simple tasks such as remembering. Prior, a victim of Aids understands the deadliness it contains. He begged “you’ll send me there and I won’t come back please, please”(Kushner, 50). Knowing that there is no solution, no cure, Prior knows that if he goes to the hospital the end is near, and he is nothing more than a dead man dying with no control of fate.

Aids has been known to spread like wildfire, which is why having medical knowledge is so important to keep the population award of the harmful disease, and educated on how to prevent. Within the article of South African Studies you can see the ignorance and disconnect they have about the Aids disease. This disconnect lead to many deaths, and extreme cases of it spreading. In their culture, Aids was linked to a “biological death that ends the human organism and a social death that extinguishes the person’s social identity need to coincide” (Niehaus, 848). Persons with this disease were shunned from the community and or their case hidden to protect their own dignity, which contributed to the spreading. People with the virus where not known as terminally ill but the “identification of Aid sufferers as zombies in discourses of witchcraft” (Neihaus, 848). Witchcraft was the source of all evil, and looked as if the person who received this disease was damned by God himself for wrongdoings, punished for eternity.

Heath Groups and Health Systems decided to take action in helping to prevent this incurable disease. However, the information taught was not very vital and helpful with the South African area. The members focused on “global youth culture and a positive sexuality based on romantic love, being faithful, abstinence or the using of condoms” (Neihaus, 850). This information highlighting the idea to protect oneself during intercourse, however it did not focus on the importance of testing, and limiting sex with partners. With the lack of education, information on safety of prevention, and the overall power in the area in the hands of men “the only message they received about treatment was that those who ate fruit and vegetables might prolong their lives” (Neihaus, 850).

In the South African culture “villagers perceived sex as a means for procreation, pleasure and maintaining good health — [they also took] pride in having multiple lovers” (Neihaus, 852). “Sex between spouses or regular lovers, who were immune to each other were generally deemed safe between their bodies regularly exchanged sweat, blood, odours and aura” (Neihaus, 852). Overall sex was extremely important in their society, it was normal to have multiple partners, and the partners you had were thought to be safe because you continued to share this sexual experience with them. They were ignorant to the fact that multiple partners also had multiple partners, which was the link to spreading and creating of this disease called Aids.

Treatment for the disease can in some ways be linked to how Prior was treated by his doctors, nurses, and ultimately Louis. In South Africa, the diseased persons were “[taken] as dead, they will take you as a living corpse” (Neihaus, 854). When someone in the community was infected they became shunned, separated from the community, left with little connection, left to die, and ultimately were a burden to society that nobody wanted to be associated with (including family). This disconnect was seen through Louis and Priors relationship during the course of Priors illness.

“Tell him, if he wakes up and you’re still on, tell him good-bye, tell him I had to go” (Kushner, 55). This quote from Louis highlights how he looked at Prior, as a burden, a shameful disease-carrying individual that he wanted no ties to. Having been in a relationship for years and living together, this one frightful disease tore them apart. Similar in the South African culture, the families and friends shut off connect not only to rid themselves of hardship but to protect themselves of the virus that they thought was even possibly to bread through breathing.

Overall, death before dying is a great way to explain the Aids disease. Carriers of the disease are prone to die, no chance to continue a normal life. They are usually shunned from the community, cut of from friends or family, cared for poorly by heath professionals, and become an embarrassment to themselves. With the lack of social support one hides from testing, which is the ultimate way to continue the spreading. With the fear of isolation ones tries to continue as themselves for as long as possible. However symptoms will eventually evolve and the infected person will be brought to the light. With the incurable disease lingering in your system you would rather be considered dead, because all you are is a body that is decomposing from the inside out with no chance of recovering.

Work Cited

  • Niehaus, Isak. “Journal of South African Studies” 33.4 (2007):845-860. Web.
  • Kushner, Tony. “Millenium Approaches.” Angels in America. New York: Theatre Communication Group, 2013. 1-125. Print.
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One Response to Death Before Dying

  1. Delaney,
    You do a good job of exploring how “social death” compares to physical death, and choosing specific passages from the readings to support your ideas. Keep working to analyze these passages even more deeply, teasing out the differences as well as the similarities between the culture presented in Angels and that represented in the article on South Africa. One good way to explore might be to consider if these works seem to represent a past culture rather than a present culture. Is AIDS still seen as a death sentence? How might the stigma of this disease change over time or across cultures? Stylistically, watch possessive forms (‘s) and read your sentences aloud slowly in the final draft to catch errors and rough sections. Consider topic sentences for each paragraph that link forward and back to show how your ideas flow together. Several good interpretations of textual moments here.

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