Vital SignsOne of the most interesting topics one can write about is a near death experience. There is something exciting and frightening about the idea of death and when a person writes about his/her experience it is usually one which grasps the readers attention and keeps the reader engaged in the story. Yet in this essay, Vital Signs, the author, Natalie Kusz, provides a unique perspective upon her near-death experience, recounting the atmosphere of the hospital and her own outlook at that time. The description encompasses more than just the five senses; She describes the scene in terms of her own feelings. This emotion or lack of it is what makes the essay different. In fact, the reader becomes accustomed to the lack of tension within the story. She in retrospect seems much more at ease with the events which transpired and this puts the reader in a consolidating situation. The structure of the essay also fits well. We are introduced to the result of the accident and are not immediately thrown into the situation. We are shown a result and gradually eased into the events which brought about this consequence. Yet, even though the essay was at times frightening and the descriptions vivid, the experience could have been described with more regret or anguish, which probably would not have contributed to the general purpose of the essay.Her encounter with the dogs was not necessarily frightening, but it did grasp the readers attention. The situation when one first reads it seems to be underplayed. The predicament that the author was in did not seem significant until she the description of the dogs was given to the reader. She says, “Oscar said that if you met a wild animal, even a bear, you had to remember it was more scared than you were. Don’t act afraid. He said, because they can smell fear.” (274) And later on she says, when the dogs finally approach, “I’m not afraid of you , I whispered; This is dumb.” (274) What is unique about her perspective is the lack of fear and causal approach to the narration. Perhaps it was because she was young or perhaps it was because she was writing about it many years later or even because her mother was the one who told her the story. And so the essay becomes more than her own perspective; It includes her mothers experience. The emotion, then, comes mostly from the mother, who frantically tries to find her missing daughter.
The sadness of the situation was hidden behind what seemed to be a total acceptance of what had happened to her. There was no underlying feat of depression or sorrow. The author says, “‘My eye is gone, isn’t it?’ I said. She kept looking at me. She said, ‘Yes it is.’ I turned again and lifted the box to my face. ‘I thought so,’ I said. ‘Those dogs were pretty mean.’” (284) And so the reader comes to an understanding of how she felt. Yet for the reader it is somewhat hard to relate to the emotions of a seven year old. Furthermore, the author also made several biblical allusions. The book of Job as explained to her by her mother was fitting to the essay in that the author, like Job, did not question why she was afflicted, and though she did suffer, she did not let this affect her demeanor. The structure of the essay is also unique. The author puts the climax of the story within the center. Much like a Shakespearean play, the essay is broken up into five parts: the hospital, the attack, vital signs, the fear, small purchase. The essay begins in the setting of the hospital and then from the attack on it proceeds chronologically. The attack, recovery, and when she bought the one-eyed fish, Max, all contribute to the essay in that they deal with the same underlying theme of acceptance and overcoming fear. She said, “‘Yes, his former owners thought he was a piranha and put him in the tank with some. They ate out one eye before anyone could get him back up.’ ‘They go for the eyes so their lunch will stop looking at them.’” (287) And so the fish corresponds to her own unique characteristics.The author provides a very purposeful and vivid description of an event which at the time could have been extremely traumatic. Her descriptions are relevant and her allusions add to the story. The book of Job was very applicable to her situation and the fish and its unique mannerismscontributed to the essay in providing a paralleled description. She explained that survival is the key and acceptance comes as a result.