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Themes form a very important part of literal works because they are the skeleton upon which the rest of the literature. Themes bring out the inner most idea of an artist in attempting to express themselves so that they can be understood by the rest of the population. In some instances themes may be hidden or expressed using styles such that they may not always be apparent. In other instances themes may be obvious. There is also the possibility of artists employing diverse themes in a single literal work some of which may be totally antagonistic. Theme development in any literal work is very important because it guides the audience through a maze of a literal work so that the main objective can be illuminated. Death is a rite of passage for humanity and it is only obvious that artists will use death as a theme in their literal works. Death becomes interesting when used as a theme because it may be used to signify sadness and in some instances the end of an era.

Death being ever mysterious and human beings having failed to demystify it can be used by artists to express their opinions perceptions with regard to the role of death in the society. Some artists perceive death as an enemy of humanity that should be fought at all costs, others also perceive death as punishment for wrong deeds done by humanity and yet still other consider death as a step within the cycle of existence that allows life to be reincarnated. Literature is an art is like a window through which the society sees itself and whichever way it is expressed be it through fiction or real stories, it is still an important tool for evaluating the society. The theme of death has been used in two famous literal works of different times; Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare and Fences by August Wilson. This paper will analyze and compare theme development in the two literal works.

Theme Development

One major difference with which death is illuminated in the two literal works is that in Fences death is personalized and is given a character. On the other hand in Rome and Juliet death is a painful occurrence that the author uses to express the ultimate sacrifice that can be given for because of love. Shakespeare manages to develop on the theme of death which has become the outcome of perennial hatred between two families; Montague and Capulet. An unlikely occurrence suddenly happens when Romeo and Juliet fall in love with each other even though Romeo is a son of the Montagues and Juliet the daughter of the Capulets. Oblivious of the perils of their union they nurture their love. The first instance of death is the death of Mercutio who is a friend to Romeo. Mercutio is killed by Tylbalt who challenges Romeo to fight because Romeo had sneaked and spoke to Juliet who is cousin. Romeo eventually kills Tylbalt. In this perspective the author implies that death is a product of fighting and that death begets death. Tylbalt killed Mercutio and as a result was killed by Romeo. This is further emphasized when Montague argues that Romeo was justified to kill Tylbalt. Juliet on the other hand expresses her refusal to marry Paris by feigning death. The theme of death is developed in the midst of another contradicting theme which is the theme of love. Finally the theme of death is seen when Romeo poisons himself when he thinks that Juliet is dead, eventually when Juliet wakes up she finds Romeo dead and this time stabs herself with the same knife that Romeo stabbed himself with.

In Fences, the author uses Death as a subject that has been personalized. Death is depicted as an enemy that Troy must fight and overcome. Troy leaves in fear of death and even finishes the building of the fence of his own so as to contain this threat. Troy is unable to live on peace either with Cory or Rose because of the anxiety the thought of death is causing him. Personification of death in this case is just to explain the reality of the problem. Troy in one of his story narrates how he fought death and worn and perhaps in this case the author aims at explaining how pre-occupied Tory was with his fear of death that it led him to day dream. After marriage the only other rite of passage left is death and perhaps Troy’s fear of death depicted how humanity fears death. Eventually Troy’s cruelty drives Cory away. Just like in Romeo and Juliet death is a sad moment for the other family members. However in both cases death also becomes a unifying factor.


There are both similarities and differences in terms of how death as a theme is developed in Romeo and Juliet and fences. In Romeo and Juliet death does not choose who it kills whether good or bad but comes as a result of hatred between two families. In fences death is depicted as a rite of passage and it is only futile to deny this fact or even fight it as it can drive away those who care about us. In the two literal works death of a close person comes with a realization and an awakening. The realization is that death s inevitable and therefore it is important to enjoy life.

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