Study Guide

Life After Life What's Up With the Epigraph?

Advertisement - Guide continues below

What's Up With the Epigraph?

"What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' …Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.'"
Nietzsche, The Gay Science.

"Everything changes and nothing remains still."
Plato, Cratylus

"What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?"
—Edward Beresford Todd

Over and Over and Over Again

Life After Life revolves around rebirth, and the epigraphs set up some of the central ideas really nicely for us. The first quote—the one from Nietzsche—introduces the idea of rebirth. It's presented as a demonic revelation, though, something perhaps dark and, importantly, powerful.

Speaking of powerful, the second quote is a shout-out to Ursula's ability to tweak her life as she lives it time and again. While there are lots of constants between her lives—same family, same upbringing, stuff like that—none of Ursula's lives are exactly the same. As Plato says, "everything changes." And as for the "nothing remains still" part, Ursula's life most definitely doesn't, cycling back through itself on repeat.

The last quote is fudging it a bit. Edward Beresford Todd may sound like the name of a Romantic poet you studied last year, but he's actually a character in this book. Teddy's quote is something most of us have probably wondered at one point. "I wish I could do that again…" But even if life gave us mulligans, what would it mean to do things right? Is there a "right" or "wrong" way to live? As Ursula learns during her many do-overs, getting one thing right often causes something else to go wrong.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...