The Appointment in Samarra is a short story that has a different outlook from the one that is popular in western cultures. In the story Death is a woman who lets a servant know hes going to die while the servant is at a marketplace buying items. Death is personalized as a vulnerable woman who can make a mistake regarding ones fate. This Death character differs from the established idea of the current society in which Death is portrayed as a man or as the frightening Grim Reaper. Death in the story doesnt seem to embody the idea of the Grim Reaper but rather the opposite. She isnt threatening or evil where as the popular conception of death are threatening, evil and an ominous figure.
In the story when Death is introduced by the servant, he establishes that she is a woman by saying I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned it was Death that jostled me (Maugham 1). She doesnt seem threatening and intense as represented by the Grim Reaper. The Grim Reaper usually is a male that doesnt show his identity because he hides under a dark robe. He also carries a scythe for slaying souls. However in the story death is represented like a normal woman at a marketplace. She is Non-threatening, neither scary nor intimidating. Nevertheless The Servant recognizes who she is and once he acknowledge the current situation hes in, he becomes frightened. At that point The Servant runs away to Samarra and believes fate would change because Death wont find him there. The Merchant whos the Servants master then asks Death Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning (Maugham 1). Death replies with That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise (Maugham 1). This implies that she isnt accurate when it came to being Death. She was shocked to find the servant in Baghdad when she was supposed to find and kill him in Samarra. This showed weakness on her part because Death usually does the job with no mistakes or mishaps.
This character of Death is simply the opposite idea of what Death should represent. The overall perception is that Death is a mysterious, dark, powerful and a pure evil entity. The Grim Reaper is the best example of peoples conception of Death. On the other hand this character in the story seemed normal, not intimidating and weak. Death showed vulnerability after being surprised at the servants random appearance. This is all an opposite reaction of what the general public perceives to be an idea on how death should be portrayed.
The Servants reaction in the story is actually a normal reaction is someone comes close to Death. The Servant returned from the marketplace to his master and was white and trembling (Maugham 1). The Servant then told his master he wanted The Masters horse to escape to Samarra so he can avoid an encounter with Death. The Master lends The Servant the horse and he fled. Little did he know Death would later have an appointment with The Servant wherever he fled to. The Servants reaction is normal if one can consider being face to face with Death. What doesnt add up is the fact Death let him escape and not kill the servant in the first encounter they had which shows why this portrayal of Death wasnt the normal perception of what its known to be.
In any point of view, Death symbolizes fear, evil, darkness and annihilation. However in this story she really doesnt symbolize these ideas, but overall she will find her victim and accomplish the task of killing the servant because thats the idea that Death implies. One way or another Death waits for no one. This story definitely shows a less accurate portrayal of Death. Death being a woman, non intimidating, surprised and being seen as a normal person that communicates isnt the overall idea of what death is and should be portrayed as. It should be portrayed overall as dark, mysterious, omniscient; evil that says nothing and takes the life of whoever it needs to.