Study Guide

Nothing Death

By Janne Teller


Let's rack up a body count for Nothing, shall we? There's Emil Jensen, then Cinderella the dog, then Oscarlittle the hamster, who succumbs to the frost when December rolls around. And, last but not least, there's Pierre Anthon, whose death is the culmination of the book. But here's the weird part: that whole death scene? It's pretty flat, emotionally speaking. He's not freaking out, and neither are his killers. In that sense, Teller remains true to the allegorical nature of the story. Events are just playing out as they inevitably must, and people represent their ideas to the bitter end. In going to the sawmill, dissing the heap of meaning, and then turning his back on his peers, it's almost as if Pierre Anthon knows he's there solely to illustrate a philosophy. He's nothing if not true to his ideals.

Questions About Death

  1. Why does Cinderella refuse to leave Sorensen's grave until the children come along, then readily leave with them? What role does the dog play in the allegory?
  2. Why didn't Elise care more about her little brother? We know these are some emotionless characters in general, but girlfriend's lip didn't even quiver when they dug him up.
  3. Do you think Pierre Anthon went to the sawmill knowing he was going to die?
  4. How might the ending of the book have been different if Teller had shown us Pierre Anthon's fear of death?

Chew on This

Nothing teaches us that recognizing the meaninglessness of life removes the fear of death.

The night Pierre Anthon dies, the heap of meaning dies, too. It's like meaning can't survive in his presence. Dude's a meaning-murderer.

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