Analysis Of “Behind The Formaldehyde Curtain” By Jessica Mitford

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This piece is about the process of embalmment. The author goes into detail about all the steps of what happens from the moment the deceased enters the embalmers surgical quarters all the way to when he is placed into the casket to say his final goodbye to his family and friends.

This piece is structured as a science procedure. Throughout the essay you can see that many of the topic sentences she uses become more of procedure-like steps. One example of this from her book is when she says, “The next step is to have at Mr. Jones with a thing called a trocar.” She also uses a third point of view and process analysis to describe the procedures and practices the enabler takes in order to preserve and restore the patient’s body.

The author uses allusion, medical, jargon, imagery, irony, and satire throughout this passage. You can easily tell that her tone changed throughout the passage. Her tone is sarcastic, witty, humorous, casual, intelligent, while also looking down upon the entire process.

I believe this piece is addressed to the general-public. She uses this piece to show how inhumane this entire process is to the public but also just to inform them of exactly what they are leaving their loved ones to go through even though they are dead. She may also be targeting people who have lost loved ones that don’t know what happens during embalmment or just people who are curious to what happens to them after death.

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The reader can clearly sense the authors distaste of the entire procedure causing them to feel quite repulsed while reading the subject. Although that author is very detailed with subject she also includes a casual tone that allows the reader to read the entire passage without feeling completely disgusted and nauseous. The reader is also a little bit surprised throughout reading the passage as well due to the facts that they receive throughout the passage.

The purpose of this text is to inform the public about the process of embalming in a detailed manner that allows the author to covey her feelings towards the process clearly. As I have said in the questions above there is no question that Jessa Mitford does not agree with this entire process and finds it quite inhumane.

This piece is effective at its goal. By being very descriptive throughout the entire passage the author was able to reach her audience and clearly show them how inhumane, gruesome, and plain evil the entire process is.

Mitford begins the essay with Hamlet’s “Yorick” and then later brings in “Mr. Jones” who is “reposing in the preparation room,” waiting to be embalmed. Why does the author use these characters in the essay? Which other rhetorical technique could the author have used? Mitford uses fictional characters through the essay to evoke our sense of empathy. In other words she is using the rhetorical device pathos to appeal to her readers sense of emotion. She is also using characters to constantly remind us that all of these acts are being done upon individuals who were once alive and once had personal lives, family and even friends. She also uses logos thought her passage. One example of this is when she describes early American embalming practices on page 239. Another example is when she provides specific information on the law regarding the deceased family (how in most states the sig. of the next of kin must be obtained before an autopsy, cremation, or before the body is given for medical school for research).

This essay is, in some ways, a process essay, describing how the funeral director has “revamped the corpse to look like a living doll.” Mitford describes each process with great detail to make the reader realize how inhumane the process by dehumanizing the dead into what she calls a “living doll”. She uses words with negative connotations that creates a very negative vibe throughout the passage. The author also treats each stage as a though she is explaining a real surgical process and on a patient. Her casual tone highlights the evident satire in her writing which cause the gruesome scenarios to be presented in a matter of fact kind of way that stimulates a sense of humor allowing the reader to look at the entire situation as lees gruesome than it actually is.

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