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Norris, Frank. "A Memorandum of Sudden Death".


The narrator presents a manuscript that he got from a professional bone-gatherer who brought it from Arizona. The author of the manuscript is Karslake, writer of studies in ethnology. Karslake enrolled in the War probably for the sake of getting material for his work on the

Friday, April 11. Karslake and his messmates are on their way to La Paz. They are in a desert, it is unspeakably hot, and they are running out of water. They are followed by a group of "them", meaning apparently Indians. They do not attack but keep on following them.

Unexpectedly the Indian attack comes. The small group of soldiers manages to defend themselves. Karslake cannot bear the atmosphere of expecting another attack to come. He cannot sleep. Another attack comes. The Indians form a circle and as they are coming near the group, they narrow the circle. Karslake's horse is dying, another horse is dead. They make a rampant of the bodies. One of the wounded soldiers dies. This is the first violent death Karslake encounters and it strikes him with the lack of interest it awakes. By another attack Karslake kills one of the Indians and enjoys this new feeling.

Karslake and his mates realize that the Indians were waiting for the terrain which would suit their final attack. The soldiers are now on a flat land, elevated as if an amphitheatre. They have only few cartridges left. Karslake realizes that they are going to die. He grasps the secret of Life, but he cannot find words to express it. Now he understands why the secret is hidden to man. His feverish visions elevate him to the level of god. He compares himself to John of Revelation when he tries to put down what he witnesses. He is the last of the group to survive. He writes his last will. The date, April 15, is recorded, and the following sentence is left unfinished.


- a rather conventional story for amusement

- use of intermediate narrator


  • Author

    Norris, Frank. (1870 - 1902).
  • Full Title

    "A Memorandum of Sudden Death".
  • First Published

    In: A Deal in Wheat and Other Stories of the New and Old West. NY: Doubleday, 1903.
  • Form

    Short story.

Works Cited

Norris, Frank. "A Memorandum of Sudden Death". A Deal in Wheat and Other Stories of the New and Old West. (1903). Teddington: The Echo Library, 2006.


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