In Jessica Mitford’s essay “Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain”, the author briefly describes the scientific method of embalming, giving compendious details about the execution of this process. Her article is a brilliant satire on this customary technique used by funeral industries, most commonly in North America.
Similarly, In Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s essay “On the Fear of Death”, the image of death is illustrated by different amendments and alterations made in burial procedure which have increased the emotional breakdowns and agitation among the society. In the first essay, the foremost thing noticed is how Mitford makes the readers familiar with the materialistic nature of funeral companies and all these money-making methodologies used by them. She introduces the topic of embalming by phrasing it as “most extraordinary procedure” and states the “Americans pay hundreds of millions of dollars for its perpetuation, blissfully ignorant of what it is all about, what is done, how it is done” (Mitford,1). She mentions about an ancient time when embalming rituals were performed in the presence of all the beloved ones. But due to advancements and commercialization, now the rituals are performed in the absence of relatives who wish to attend. She wonders if the funeral director “fears that public information about embalming might lead patrons to wonder if they really want this service?” (Mitford,2). From beginning to end, she discusses the details of this process and condemns the “confidentiality” of this process.
The author realizes that the reason corpse is decorated in an exhibitable way, according to Mr. J. Sheridan Mayer, is to “semblance of normality…unmarred by ravages of illness, disease, and mutilation.” (Mitford,3). Family members of dead person certainly are oblivious about the steps, nor their opinion is asked. Death of a person is more like the profit-making business for people. Correspondingly, the evidence of changes made in inhumation of the dead body over the decades is shown in on the fear of death.
Man, itself has not changed but his ideology towards death has altered in many different styles. “Open Casket ceremony” is one of the techniques mentioned in this essay. The author describes death as “frightful and frightening happening” for society and considers its fear as “universal fear” (Kubler-ross,92). Modifications are only made to the style of dealing with this last stage and the way it is presented publicly. The author proves this fact by sharing her childhood experience when a farmer died and was left at his home with his dear ones without any argument.
The author brings the concept of “illogical dreams” which are symbolic of things agreeable in our dreams but illogical in real life. She compares these dreams to children to whom death is introduced in disguised form. They are often told lies about death, and as they grow and face the harsh reality, he will suffer through “unresolved grief and regard this incident as frightening, mysterious, and in any case very traumatic experience with untrustworthy grownups, which he has no way to cope with” (Kubler-ross,93). Children should eventually be exposed to this stage of life as this helps them to become responsible and courageous.
He compares this to present era designating death as “dehumanized” method. A dying person needs peace and comfortable environment, but he is rather rushed into an ambulance and taken into that unbearable habitat, irrespective of his feelings and desires. Instead of giving him a peaceful environment, he is given numerous therapies, injections, and medications with a group of people surrounding. Society believes more in mechanical treatments than psychological, emotional therapies. There is an article by Graham Lawton “Death” which gives more details about this loss of life in animals. The most prominent thing I notice in this article is our ancestors, chimpanzees react to death in a similar way. They want their loved one to survive their last breath in their presence.
They recorded this incident on a chimpanzee named “panzy”. The author calls their response as” strikingly reminiscent” (Lawton,34). Throughout the article, the author discusses their behavior and how these rituals started. Animals go through the same phase, same emotions as humans when their dear ones pass away. To conclude with, Death is uncertain. It’s most heartbreaking instant for a person and relatives.
It’s that moment of life in which everyone desires for support and consolation from each other. However, burial companies make it merchandising method and hence play with emotions of people by manipulating them and performing all the rituals in their absence. Neither their opinions nor their presence is required while exercising these practices. Even children are unaware and misguided about the actuality of death.It is better to make people and young one’s awareness about the reality of these rituals and letting them participate so that they can spend their last memories with a person who is never going to come back.