What do all human beings have in common? Mortality, because everyone will die, everyone’s bodies will be subjected to burial. The question is, do people really want themselves exposed to embalming? Do they really wish for some stranger to tamper with their bodies, pinning their lips together creating angel like expressions? Do people really want their bodies being cut open for vanity purposes? The truth is most people are not aware of what goes behind those peaceful, content expressions on the deceased faces.
Jessica Mitford exposes the cold truth in “Mortuary Solaces”. She examines the procedures that go into embalming and shares it with the public. Why? Because everyone will all have to go through this and should start considering if this service is really wished. Jessica Mitford believes this service must be sugar coated by embalmers because in reality embalming disrupts the human body in its moment of “peace”; it consists of painful procedures, phoniness, and cruel employees; truths that push away all costumers.
Most religions if not all contain a peaceful ending, it can be when Christians reach afterlife or when Buddhists finally leave the rebirth cycle, etc. So why should people’s bodies be tormented disrupting their restfulness. According to Mitford and her extensive research the body is exposed to painful procedures. The goal of the embalmer is to fix and eliminate any trace of death or pain on the body. In fact, what the embalmer is doing is subjecting the body to more discomfort. Torturing it to make it acceptable to the deceased friends and families’ eyes.
Mitford states: Lip drift can sometimes be remedied by pushing one or two straight pins through their inner margin of the lower lip and then inserting them between the two front upper teeth…Another method to maintain lip closure is to dislocate the lower jaw, which is then held in its new position by a wire run through holes which have been drilled through upper and lower jaws at the midline (Mitford 333). With this vivid description the reader can see what is done to the body just to achieve a “peaceful” expression. If people knew it was this harsh they would not ask for it.
The smile on the patients face is just evidence of the fakeness and stupidity of this procedure. People would never have imagined that behind that smile everyone approves of is a series of tortures. Throughout the text Mitford uses words like “gruesomeness” to show the horridness of conserving life. When the routine demands the departed’s body to be left untouched for an amount of time, Mitford describes it as being “unmolested”. With this it is clear that the body is suffering with all the reparations it has been predisposed to. The deceased is being treated like a thing.
The author states, “The hands should be cupped slightly for a more lifelike, relaxed appearance” (Mitford 334). This is why most people have little knowledge on the subject and would not demand this service if they knew they were paying for deception. The body is everything but relaxed. The embalmers are portrayed as malicious, cynical, and even diabolical. Mitford mentions that once the mutilated tissues are eliminated the embalmer no longer feels the hassle of restoring the body because the “tough” part is over. They even take advantage of what the patient died of.
For instance, if he or she died of carbon monoxide the embalmer does not have to worry about giving the deceased another shade of color. If people knew this, they would feel uncomfortable and even terrified of having a heartless person in charge of the bodies of their loved ones. So what does this business consists of? Strangers playing around with people’s bodies, cutting them open to eliminate swollenness, dislocating jaws, wishing everyone died of carbon monoxide to make their jobs easier? What is found underneath the passed away’s collar? Perhaps sutures, scars, and even wires.
After all Jessica Mitford mentions, “Il faunt souffrir pour etre belle” (Mitford 333). The whole concept of embalming is suffering in return of beauty. Is image really that expensive? Is appearance worth the price? Death is inevitable. There is nothing people can do to prevent it, creating lifelike facades on dead bodies only limit humans to continue living in denial. Morticians cover up the torturing done on the bodies, the reality that the body is not really in a better shape after the service, and the coldblooded people that it employs because people would stop requesting it because they would not find anything appealing to it.