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In the story “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried,” Amy Hempel suggests that losing a close friend can feel like losing a limb. At the start of the story, the reader is not given any context, setting, or background for the characters. The narrator tells the story as it happens and as she is thinking so that the reader can grasp pieces of the plot at a time. This choppy narration hints at the loss and emotion the narrator feels in relation to losing her friend. Through this writing style the reader can comprehend the level of grief and panic the narrator feels.

The writing style of this short story assists in the overall message but the emphasis is on the narrator’s complicated emotions for her dying friend. When the friend is diagnosed with cancer, the narrator cannot bear to visit her. As readers, we understand something that she can’t grasp: the love she feels for her friend is too much. The narrator doesn’t want to see her die, so much so that she trades years of friendship for peace of mind. Although this is a selfish act, it is an understandable one.

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