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The Theme of Ageing and Death, Essay Example

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Words: 1286

Essay

The beginning of the 21st century saw a great number of challenges of social, economical, ethical and esthetical kind.  The process of rapid population ageing in Europe, America and Japan led to numerous consequences in the whole spheres of life.  This process that only hastens its pace all over the world continues to change the society, not only its social and age structure but also the mentality of different age layers.  The whole issue gives rise to the whole bunch of ethical questions that have not been so burning before. In this paper an attempt was made to answer some of these questions, using the movie “I’m Not Rappaport” as an example and the ground for our analysis of the matter.

The movie presents a story of two old men who try to life their lives as they can, so to say, to use every possibility to survive mentally and physically.  One of them is eighty-one years old Nat Moyer who is very fond of talking and making fables, a kind of modern philosopher with a vivid imagination.  Nat is a confirmed and skilful debater who still remembers the times when thoughts about Great Communist Revolution were in the air.  Nat spends the greater part of his days sitting on the bench in Central Park and talking to his friend, weak-sighted and materially-minded superintendent Midge Carter.  The lofty rebel Nat and sarcastic realist Midge are worth of each other and make rather unusual couple.  Two old men are ‘lucky’ enough to meddle with a lot of troubles (mainly imposed by talkative and adventurist Nat).  They manage to fight off the street mobster, offer their help to a degraded drug addict girl and even smoke a joint.

As we can clearly see, the movie is about two old men and, by the example of these two, we will try to analyze the issue of ageing and death.  Nat and Ridge are not just old, they are very old but nevertheless their intellect abilities have not deteriorated yet.  They both demonstrate that, even if they are not geniuses, they are smart enough to cope with difficulties of everyday life without applying for an old people’s home.  Nat has a genuine wit to imagine things and situations, although all his life he has been a waiter.  Midge is more practical, but all the same his experience cannot be judged or replaced.  They are not two cracked men, they have clear understanding who they are, how old they are, that there is not so much time remained for them.  These two are the case when “One may diminish in body strength and health but at the same time gain in crystallized intelligence and wisdom” (Birren, Fisher, 1991).  Nat and Midge are the possessors of common sense and prudence: during their more than eighty years of life they have seen enough but their way of life, nevertheless, remains outdated.  They understand (especially, Midge) that changes took place.  But they are also fully aware that it is not time for them to lose hope and finish active life because their time passed.

Nat and Midge put up with the reality, with the fact that they are old and weak.  They have no choice because there is no place for weak and old in contemporary world.  The bustling megalopolis lives by its own laws without showing sympathy for people who are not strong enough to fight for their lives.  What our heroes can do is to adopt: there is the world where only the elder can help out the other, where young people do not care about the elders no matter what happens to them, – youth is busy with its own things and affairs.  Watching this movie, you understand that for people around, elders are not who possess “package of knowledge, wisdom and experience… that cannot be traded, sold or stolen” but living dead, garbage that is due to be put away (Acting on Ageing).  It seems that the young do not understand that death is not a choice but the only destination we are all going to.  And the elders are the living reminder that the flow of time is inexorable and we all sooner or later will be old and then dead. It is hard to estimate the stoical patience that two heroes show in order to suppress the feeling of rank injustice towards them.  Nostalgia and pure memories of their own youth help them not to mention that society does not care about them.

The ageing of the heroes not only did affect their position in society but also their role in the family.  We find out from the movie that Nat’s wife is already dead, that he has three children but only one, his daughter Clara, tries to take care of him; Midge is divorced and leaves alone but he has had five wives.   Being fully aware of Nat’s odd actions, Clara tries to send Nat to the old people’s home but in vain.  The problem seems quite contradictory.  On the one hand, Clara wants the best for her father, tries to save him from the dangers that he may encounter in the streets.  On the other hand, Nat is not disabled, not out of his mind and he does not want to be sent anywhere, especially to the institutions like senior centers or old people’s homes.  It is hard to disagree that he has right to choose, but his daughter is obliged with duty towards her father – she cannot leave him alone.  In the end, Nat agrees to visit senior center but it is merely his repentance for the inconveniences he has imposed on Clara.  Midge has the other problem: he is being ousted from his working-place on account of his age and bad eyesight.  He loses his job despite all efforts of Nat whose ‘talks’ were not of much help because times of populism ended long ago.  Strict logic defeats Nat’s theatrical improvisations.  Neither did he manage to solve the drug addict’s problem. The old lose to the young.

Life takes its course and the old should be replaced by the new. Nat and Midge cannot deny the fact that it is not much life to live remained for them.  As Nat says: “It’s the system. Two years old, you stand up. Seventy years later, you fall down again” (Memorable Quotes for “I’m Not Rappaport”).  As we can understand it, – falling down to the grave.  Old men do not deny the universal law of nature that death is the integral part of life, that, actually, we live to pass away.  They want to prolong their lives, not to be killed but they also understand that if somebody kills them, there will be not many who come to their graves, or even mention that they ceased to exist.

In the movie “I’m Not Rappaport” we encounter the society that has no respect for age and death.  Elders are presented like ‘used’ people.  They have no value for the society any longer; their existence is shown as inconvenience to the young. There can hardly be a person who is not afraid of getting old but there is not so much left for us to decide.  Ageing is the universal course of life and it is not the best side of modern people to deny ageing and death because it means to deny life as it is.

References

Acting on Ageing. (n.d.) Ageing Social Policy and Development Division. Retrieved from http://social.un.org/index/Ageing/ActiononAgeing.aspx

Birren, J.E., Fisher, L.M. (1991). Aging and Slowing of Behavior: Consequences for Cognition and Survival.  University of California, Los Angeles: Research & Education Association.

Memorable Quotes for “I’m Not Rappaport”. (n.d.) The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0116601/quotes

Quotations about Age. (n.d.) Quote Garden. Retrieved from  http://www.quotegarden.com/age.html

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