Epicurus and His Theory on Futility of Death

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The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus would have been keenly astute and highly critical of several prominent character’s fear of death in Norman Jewison’s 1987 drama Moonstruck. The majority of the characters in Moonstruck have an all-consuming fear of death that permeates every aspect of their life. Epicurus makes clear through his “Letter to Menoceus” that death should not be feared and that a person who fears death is inferior to one who does not.

In Moonstruck there are an abundance of death references, both visually and in the dialogue. The allusions to death can be found throughout the entire movie and are seemingly neverending. The characters have an obsession with death in their surroundings and they can’t seem to go two sentences without mentioning death in their conversations. Loretta is an accountant and we see her early on with a client who happens to be the owner of a funeral home and the scene even includes a death and taxes inference. We learn early on that Loretta’s previous husband has died. Furthermore, Loretta, her fiancee as well as her mother and father seem to only talk about death and when we are introduced to Ronny we see that he is like this too. Even the opera Loretta and Ronny see features a lead character who dies. Loretta’s mother attributes a fear of death for nearly everything her husband Cosmo does. While discussing why her husband is cheating on her, Loretta’s mother says “I think it’s because they (men) fear death.” Later on in the movie she says “He thinks if he holds onto his money he will never die” Loretta’s mother.

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Loretta becomes engaged to Johnny but openly admits that she doesn’t love him. Without true love, they are doomed to be people waiting for death and blaming everything on bad luck.

An elderly woman at the airport tells Loretta that long ago her sister stole her boyfriend and she’s still bitter about it all these years later. This woman chose to live a bitter life holding a grudge against her sister, which has made her death-obsessed and superstitious. This woman ultimately serves as a warning to Loretta as what not to become. In addition to the dialogue directly discussing death, death is also symbolized by the colors white, black and gray and Loretta is seen throughout most of the film in these colors.

Raymond and Rita, on the other hand, have fun with each other, are happy and seem to embrace their lives. Neither of them ever dwell upon death the way that the others do. The moon serves as a prominent symbol of life in Moonstruck. A full moon is a significant symbol, as those who see the moon seek life while those who do not bother to notice or care are obsessed with death. The moon energizes Raymond and even makes Raymond appear younger, to his wife anyway. When Raymond brings up the moon to Cosmo, Cosmo is not interested because Cosmo has trepidation about death. Rose is somewhere in the middle of the dichotomy the film has created, as she is obsessed with death like her husband but she is changing. In the middle of the movie, Cosmo sleeps unaware while the full moon attracts her. Rose realizes that her husband is having an affair and instead of succumbing to her death fascination she decides to seek life. Furthermore, Loretta and Ronny, once they are together, admire the moon. The next morning, however, Loretta denies even having seen the full moon. Without her true love, Ronny, she goes back to seeing her death oriented view of the world. Certain characters who have a death obsession problem are seeking out life.

It is evident that Epicurus would be highly critical of many characters fear of death. In his “Letter to Menoceus,” he writes that “the wise man does not deprecate life nor does he fear the cessation of life (p. 13).” Epicurus would see many of the characters in the film as foolish and inferior to him due to their cowardly fear of death. Epicurus states that a superior man is one who is “altogether free from the fear of death (p. 15).” He goes on to say “For life has no terrors for him has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors for him in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect.” Epicurus really does not mince words, he could not be any clearer about his feeling about death when he says “death… is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for which the living it is not and the dead exist no longer (p. 12).” In conclusion, several of the characters in Moonstruck are afraid of death, Epicurus is highly critical of those who fear death, so, therefore, Epicurus would be highly critical of several of the characters in Moonstruck.

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