Literary Analysis Of 'The Day The Lady Died'

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Most elegies put their focus on the departed subject of the poem--and for good reason. One of the main purposes of an elegy is to remember and celebrate the life of the individual that has passed on. But the narrative O’Hara’s poem “The Day the Lady Died” doesn’t put most of its focus on the departed, but rather follows the day-to-day activities of the speaker before he discovers that Billie Holiday has died. This narrative isn’t used to diminish the importance of Holiday, however. Instead, it is used to show the nature of mortality in regard to how the world continues on normally even after the death of a celebrity. But rather than saying this means that Holiday’s life was unimportant, the fleeting nature of mortality shows how important Holiday was to some people, and how she touched their lives even in small ways. “The Day the Lady Died” is not a grand celebration of an individual, but rather a celebration of how one individual affected those around her in small ways. The majority of the narrative does not explicitly muse on the nature of mortality nor how fleeting it is. However, the subtle theme of how disconnected and fast the pace of life can feel is interwoven throughout the narrative. For example, the speaker is going “straight to dinner/and I don’t know the people who will feed me.” There is a kind of anonymity in this interaction with no thought to who the people are that are serving the speaker. It seems that he goes to them for a service, and they have no
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