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Death Be Not Proud

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Characters

Frances

Characters Frances

Frances is a beloved fixture for Johnny; she, more than anyone, grounds him and remains a source of constant love. Gunther believes Johnny inherited his intelligence and maturity from her, and their many bedside talks only solidify these traits. Johnny discusses death only with his mother, and while Gunther does not transcribe these conversations, one gets the impression that Johnny gains much of his courageous attitude toward death through them. Likewise, her boundless energy in exposing him to culture—plays and literature especially—makes him a more complete person.

As the more intimate parent, Frances also has the responsibility of guiding Johnny through an interrupted adolescence; Johnny is growing up within hospital walls. When he is worried about the possibility of dancing at his senior prom (an event he does not later attend), Frances practices with him. When he wants greater independence, Frances and Gunther must decide whether to let him walk around on his own, with the looming threat of a life-ending injury, or more safely restrict him. They do let him have as much freedom as he can handle, and her note at the end of Death Be Not Proud seems to justify this. She poignantly reminds us that what was precious about Johnny was not his death, but his life, and that what she hopes will pass on to others is Johnny's love of life through both sickness and health—a love she helped cultivate.