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Death Knocks - Woody Allen: A One-Act Play Featuring Two Characters

In Death Knocks, Woody Allen provides a one-act play featuring two characters. Nat is a bald kvetch who makes his living as a dress manufacturer in Brooklyn. One evening at midnight, he is visited by the other character, Death. As Allen personifies him, Death is on his first day at the job and is a bit of a bumbler. When we first meet Death, he is anxious and fearful because he almost broke his neck climbing in the bedroom window. Once Nat believes his visitor is death, he bargains with him. If Nat wins at gin rummy, Death must extend his stay of execution for another 24 hours. Death loses the game and, as he nearly falls on his way out, Nat proclaims Death is "such a schlep" (Allen, 1971, p. 7). In this portrayal of Death, Allen provides a satiric character we can laugh at despite his serious nature and intent. Unlike the revered respect paid to death by the Jewish religion; by mocking Death in this play Allen is able to undermine His typically fearsome and oppressive control over human beings.

Most people fear death, envisioning it as some final and awful reality. Death can be so fearsome and oppressive that many individuals suffer from great anxiety worrying about death, so much so that they fail to live life fully from their fears. This kind of anxiety over death is prevalent in the Jewish community, despite a belief in eternal life for those who live a life adhering to God's commandments. In Death Knocks, Woody Allen uses personification, satire and humor to provide a portrayal of death that is more joke than oppressive and final reality. Allen endows Death with qualities we might not associate with him, in fact qualities that make him all too human and familiar. Death is a bit of a bumbler, tripping his way into the bedroom and nearly killing himself. Allen enhances the irony of this situation by making death "nauseous," and having him worried he will get "gangrene" from the


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Death Knocks - Woody Allen: A One-Act Play Featuring Two Characters. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:09, April 22, 2019, from