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Death, nursing and writing ambiguous characters
journal contributionposted on 16.05.2018, 00:00 by Margaret McallisterMargaret Mcallister, Donna BrienDonna Brien
When nurses are featured in narratives associated with death and dying, the common stereotype of the good nurse – of mother, or angel of mercy – is often invoked. Although such imaging can be flattering for nurses, whose work might otherwise go unnoticed and unappreciated, this representation is also unrealistic and dehumanising. Darker representations of nurses, and particularly the uncomfortable or profane aspects of nursing work, are not only rare outside of the horror genre, they have also largely escaped examination. Consequently, writers, as well as others including the public and those involved in the practice, teaching and scholarship of nursing, have a limited lexicon with which to describe that large part of nursing work which is situated in the realm of the abject, turbulent and traumatic. This article examines Franco’s film, Chronic (2015), which features a nurse who works in home-based palliative care, and whose character defies stereotypes. Analysing this richly drawn character and what this characterisation reveals about the world in which he operates, provides a case study of writing characters against powerful stereotypes and writing ambiguity.