Jessica Mitford's 'Behind The Formaldehyde Curtain'

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Saba Mirfatahi Professor Bourget English 1130 October 6th 2015 Mitford: Analysis of “Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain” Jessica Mitford’s, “Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain,” is an assertive account of the true realisms involving embalming. Jessica Mitford takes a bold stand against the funeral industry and states that people are “blissfully ignorant” (Mitford 310) on preserving people. Ultimately, Jessica Mitford’s argumentative essay is successful due to her very somber but informative and organized tone, her style using dark vivid imagery and quotations make her claims credible. One of the way’s in which Mitford’s argument is effective is through the use of her sarcastic tone. There are many words to describe Mitford’s tone; cocky, blunt,…show more content…
Her style uses imagery to convey the deeper message that preserving corpses should be a more questioned subject. For instance, each corpse is “sprayed, sliced, pierced, pickled, trussed, trimmed, creamed, waxed, painted, rouged, and neatly dressed” (310). The imagery only gets darker from there. Mitford chose to do this in order for her readers to be shocked. She wants her readers to pay notice to the reality but uses disturbing words and phrases that would only make them stop reading. Mitford takes note that “not one in ten thousand has an idea of what actually takes place” (310) and there is so much more beneath the surface of things. Mitford also uses oxymorons such as, “he has done everything in his power to make the funeral a real pleasure for everybody” (314). It’s clear that a funeral isn’t a “pleasure”, it’s an incredibly sad experience (for most people) and it just goes to show the depth Mitford will go to portray her aggressive opinions. As Mitford continues to describe the shocking details about embalming she gets into a routine and systematically gives us disconcerting imagery every other paragraph, such as, a corpse “whose mouth had been sewn together” (312). Mitford’s style is informative and she doesn’t shy away from being brutally open by using unsettling imagery, which once again makes her case even…show more content…
She uses a lot of quotations but that does not mean her own opinions are lost, instead they found the stem of her argument, that traditional funeral processes are savage. The quotations add more detail, make note that no one knows authenticity of embalming, and once again, make the reader more emotionally connected. For example, "If he were not in the habit of having them manicured in life, trimming and shaping is advised for better appearance-never questioned by kin" (313). The use of quotations allows the readers to know that she fairly treats alternate opinions as she presents them with true facts and a correct mindset of embalming. Jessica Mitford paints a very satirical picture of the world of embalming and uses her many talents to convey her claim that embalming is ridiculous and that people need to know what exactly they’re paying for. Her tone, style, and use of quotations remains solid throughout and never falters or has her readers doubt her
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