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There are not many events in people’s lives which have exclusively important meaning for them. Women consider their weddings as the happiest moments in their lives. The saddest events which can hurt people’s hearts are funerals. Nevertheless, today there is the opinion that in spite of the significance of these moments for persons, they can be thought of not only as traditions but also as good and successful businesses.
Thus, in 1963 Jessica Mitford presented her controversial vision of funerals in her book The American Way of Death the ideas from which are widely discussed even today. Rebecca Mead has chosen the opposite aspect and has discussed the peculiarities of modern American weddings in her One Perfect Day: the Selling of the American Wedding. The topics of these two books can be considered to be contradictory, but the way of the problem’s discussion has a lot of similarities.
The main difference of these books is the topics of their works. It can seem that Mitford and Mead discuss absolutely opposite events of people’s life, but the main issue of the works and the manner of their descriptions and considerations are rather similar.
Both Mitford and Mead present their visions of funeral and wedding traditions as businesses according to which some people make great money on the happiness or grief of others. In her book Mitford states about funerals that “business is booming” (Mitford 19). Rebecca Mead reflects this opinion in her work when she tells about weddings as the most developed business based on traditions today (Mead).
Who are those people who develop business in the field of death? Mitford is rather sarcastic when she speaks about rich funeral directors who are inclined to make more money and use people’s tragedies for their sakes because they know that a person is shocked and cannot estimate the situation (Mitford). Thus, “Mitford’s sharply satirical work dispenses with objectivity and fixes its sights firmly on those who try to turn death into big business” (Allen).
In her turn, Mead discusses the problem of the expensiveness of weddings and the flourishing of this business as the result of ‘Bridezilla’ phenomenon (Mead). It means that women themselves are responsible for that agiotage that we can observe in the American society in relation to the wedding tradition today. That is why brides are ready to pay more than it is necessary for their weddings in order to complete the image of a bride which is so popular in media (Mead).
Funerals and weddings are those events in our lives which are considered as traditions. However, Jessica Mitford states that people are “in danger of being swept away along with sentiment and tradition by those who do not realize the value of the traditional American funeral” (Mitford 78).
That is why the tradition begins to acquire more and more details of a business. Mead emphasizes that the tradition of weddings has become the industry of weddings which is based today on “cultural expectations of love, hopes for marriage, and sense of the role of family” (Mead 24).
Nowadays people pay more attention to the financial aspect of the procedure. They think that if the ceremony of funeral costs much, it will be successful. However, Mitford argues that we cannot speak about any success when the conversation is about the peculiarities of funerals because it really does not matter how much the ceremony can cost. It should not be expensive because it does not include the elements of the procedure which can be really expensive (Mitford).
Nevertheless, she also points that each person has his or her own vision of the problem, and the costs for the funeral can be rather different “according to individual tastes” of people (Mitford 78). Rebecca Mead also considers the cost for the wedding as the result of people’s wish to spend or not their money. It is especially difficult not to spend much when all the advertisements remember you that only diamond rings are worth at your wedding (Mead).
Funerals and weddings have become industries for many American people who are interested in the incomes from them. What is the meaning of these two sacred events which constantly lose the features of traditions? Jessica Mitford is rather strict when he depicts the meaning of funerals. Thus, she emphasizes that the tradition of funeral “is deconstructed” (Allen). There is no more meaning in it, if it depends on the sums of money which are spent for it. The idea of funeral as a sacred tradition has become commercialized.
Rebecca Mead discusses the meaning of weddings in detail. She argues on the point of the real meaningfulness of this tradition. “We want weddings to be meaningful. But what, these days, do they mean?” (Mead 26). Moreover, the author also accentuates the public interpretation of weddings and concludes that “weddings are fun” (Mead 26).
They can be considered as fun because they have lost their intimate meaning. Today brides are inclined to follow all the fashion tendencies which appear in the wedding industry and to forget about the spiritual peculiarities connected with the tradition of weddings. That is why this ritual continues to lose its spiritual attributes, but begins to obtain more elements which are popular with the public.
When we can observe that the peculiarities of the discussion of the weddings and funerals ceremonies which are provided by two authors in their books have a lot of similarities we can also pay attention to the characteristic features of the authors’ tones.
Jessica Mitford’s tone or a manner of narration is rather satirical or even sarcastic when she discusses the elements of the funeral ceremonies, the traditions of embalming typical for the American society, the costs for these procedures, and the role of funeral directors in the organization of the process (Mitford).
When we concentrate on the peculiarities of Mead’s descriptions of weddings we can say that her “writing is occasionally distant, emphasizing the otherness of that which she describes, but she humanizes her subjects and even allows herself to feel for them” (Popek).
Jessica Mitford in her The American Way of Death and Rebecca Mead in her One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding have presented their visions of two opposite ceremonies which are considered in our society as traditional ones.
However, their ideas associated with the topics and the tone of their discussions of the problems and controversial issues have more similarities than differences. Jessica Mitford and Rebecca Mead provide the complete analyses of these two significant and meaningful ceremonies which are given in a rather satirical manner. The main point which they both accentuate in their works is the role of business for weddings and funerals.
Allen, Sophie. Jessica Mitford’s Classic Account of American Funeral Practices. 12 Mar. 2008. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.
Mead, Rebecca. One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding. USA: Penguin, 2008. Print.
Mitford, Jessica. The American Way of Death Revisited. USA: Vintage, 2000. Print.
Popek, Emily. One Perfect Day by Rebecca Mead. 24 Sep. 2008. Web. 11 Feb. 2012.