The book “The American way of death” revisited was produced in the mid nineties before Jessica Mitford died in 1996. The book was later published in 1998 with new chapters that focused on the increased funeral conglomerates. She was later discriminated for her content because she destroyed an entire industry neglecting the few who could be honest.
She tackled the death sector in America and its weaknesses without considering how it got there. However Mitford was determined to expose all the terrible secrets that were involved in “The American way of death.” This later on paved way for other journalists to write boldly on controversial topics.
Rebecca Mead who is the author of the book “One Perfect Day” portrayed the American wedding as a Rosetta stone. The author gave a series of questions that challenged people’s national identity. She asked why weddings in America have become so extravagant and demanding in production.
Moreover she asked why most grooms and brides pretend to consider their tradition yet they use weddings to express their expensive level of living. Most weddings reveal how people live, relate and consume. The book brings out investigative journalism that brings out activities involved in wedding industry today. She claims that the wedding industry has helped improve America’s economy because the wedding business gets complex and lavish everyday.
Weddings have taken a cultural shift and have become marketing opportunities where religion beliefs are neglected and expectations are increased. In the past weddings were a transition from childhood to adulthood, and they were a rite of passage to take people into a more intimate relationship. They would give value to the various American cultures by considering marriage a crucial stage in life.
Rebecca does a research on the wedding business and shows measures taken to grow it such as trade shows, conventions and factories. She also researched the available data produced from the industry for the advantage of advertisers on the patterns followed by grooms and brides in terms of consuming money towards the wedding (Fagan 22-44).
Compare and contrast the two books and use short quotes for each point
Most themes found in the two books are similar; these are some of those themes.
1- Exploitation– In the book “One Perfect Day”: The selling of the American Dream, Rebecca Mead looks into the extreme levels that most brides go to in order to have the best weddings ever. She stated that in the past, weddings were considered as simple events where people only wanted to get married. Today, people have found an arena for making money by being wedding planners.
This is a field that has thrived with time because the wedding market is growing expansively. Most brides turn to wedding planners to help them run errands and do most of the planning for them. This has become so common that some have branded themselves, celebrity wedding planners. These planners exploit brides by giving them wrong advice on how to manage their finances. They quote higher prices than what would commonly be found in the market. Brides end up using a lot of money than expected.
Jessica Mitford in her book “The American way of death” revisited also discusses this issue of exploitation. She claims that most funeral homes take advantage of the bereaved by charging high prices that are unaffordable. Funerals according to her have become business opportunities to most people and they perceive them as ground for making more money.
Florists who would help make flowers for the funerals would give high prices as well as those who sell caskets. Some families are simple and would opt to burry their loved ones in a simple event, but it has turned out to be a field of financial exploitation.
2- Ignorance– The first book clearly describes some brides as being ignorant and lacking knowledge of what is important. The author claims that if most of them would take personal responsibility to go round and check the market as they ask about the prices, then this high level of exploitation would hardly be encountered. Wedding planners are also insignificant especially if one has a fixed budget. This would help these brides organize their own weddings and have nobody to blame. However their ignorance leaves them at a terrible state where most wedding planners intervene and take advantage.
Jessica Mitford’s book also focuses on people who have no idea what it takes to hold a burial. As a result, they can be given high prices and the wrong financial advice that would cost them more than they can afford. She advises people to reach out for information and knowledge that could be of great help for them. With this kind of information, one can hardly be deceived.
She also advises that people question the decisions made by planners of these events and refuse to accept everything they are told. Bargaining was another option; she states that if people learn to negotiate the original price, they can end up saving more. This form of ignorance that is taken advantage of is quoted by Jessica Mitford as “Graveside solicitations”.
3- Societal pressure– Both writers bring out the pressure and negative force that comes from the society which leaves people feeling compelled to please everyone. In Rebecca Mead’s book, brides are under so much pressure to do a wedding that is beyond their budget to make an impression to people. She says that most brides are competing to have the best and most unique weddings so that the society perceives them differently.
They would go to lengths of buying expensive gowns instead of hiring one which would be cheaper. This is why she claimed that the wedding field has really changed from how it was in the past. Brides would have to borrow money or go to banks to loan money for their wedding to be possible. These were awful financial decisions because long after the wedding they would remain in debt.
She stated that it was a bad choice to make, because one loses focus on life after the wedding. Some brides would end up in poverty because the debt was too big to be completed in a short amount of time. Rebecca later gives advice to brides to do weddings they can afford and remain in proper financial states. She advised that the society will never be fully content no matter how hard one wants to please them.
Rebecca quoted, “After a few hours, I was overcome by a condition known among retailers as “white blindness,” a reeling, dumbfounded state in which it becomes impossible to distinguish between an Empire-waist gown with alencon lace appliques and a bias-cut spaghetti strap shift with crystal detail, and in the exhausted grip of which I wanted only to lie down and be quietly smothered by the fluffy weight of it all, like Scott of the Antarctic.”
In Jessica Mitford’s book, burials have also become arenas for showing off. Instead of showing respect to the dead, people go to inappropriate lengths to please the society for them to be perceived as wealthy. Such measures are discouraged because people get into debt over a simple event that should be about mourning and giving a proper send off. She advises that people reject pressure from the society which would force them to live at a level they have hardly reached.
She also advises those involved in burial costs like florists, cemeteries and carpenters to lower their production charges because most people holding burials are in a somber mood and ought not to be exploited. They should reason well and give prices that all can afford. They should stop viewing funerals as opportunities to make money because it only exposes their level of being selfish (Salmond 85-139).
Draw attention between the two books about the similar fact that both events are promoted and generated by money
It is quite transparent that both a wedding and a funeral require financial funding to take place. At most times, weddings use more money than funerals. However the significance of money in both events is clearly brought out and due to this there is a lot of controversy. People want to make false impressions to the society at large that they are wealthy and can afford anything. It is an improper choice to make because chances of being in debt are increased. With regard to funerals, Jessica Mitford quotes people asking “Can I afford to die?”
In conclusion, both books reflect the kind of behavior that is in the current world showing how times have changed. In the past life was simple and people had no pressure of impressing others. Today things have changed and people are making wrong financial choices that cost them so long to compensate. Nobody wants to be perceived as lacking money so the live their lives for people so that they become people of influence. However both writers bring out the disadvantages of such decisions and hope that people will make wise decisions.
Fagan, Andrew. Making Sense of Dying and Death. New York: Cambridge publishers, 1998. Print.
Salmond, John. The Conscience of a lawyer: Clifford Durr and American Civil Liberties. Alabama: University of Alabama, 1990. Print.