Handling the Stigma of Handling the Dead

Good Essays
Topics: Death
I. RESEARCH QUESTION

How do morticians and funeral directors handle the stigma associated with their work? Hanslin states the focus of Thompson's article as: Who are these "death specialists" who handle dead bodies, and how do they handle the stigma that comes from handling the dead?

II. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES

A. Symbolic Interactionism is found in the article on pg 225 when the author discusses that people that work in funeral homes use various symbolic measures to rename or change the outward image of the work they do. On pg 231, one funeral director tells Thompson, "My hands tend to be so cold and clammy. It's just a physical trait of mine, but there's no way that I'm going to shake someone's had and let them walk away thinking how cold it was". Cold hands are a symbol for death. On pg 230, there are various spoof ads tucked away in the desk drawer of one funeral director, meant for inside humor for those in the business. These jokes, while humorous to insiders, are actually truthful, and say something about the lack of reality-conscious discussion that goes on when dealing with their customers. They must use "politically correct" words and concepts so as not to upset the public. Life is a symbol of impending death, yet no one wants to accept it. However, the funeral home workers must do so on a daily basis. On pg 237, a funeral director discusses his many perks, non-necessities of life that his wealth has allowed him to enjoy, thus gaining more respect and prestige through the public eye. Lavish lifestyle is a symbol for hard work and/or intelligence, which both are symbols for respectability. A few of the funeral workers told of their emotional detachment while working on a corpse. A body for them becomes a symbol for emotions to end and work to begin. By naming themselves "professionals", funeral directors are requiring respect for their positions within the occupational realm. Pg 234 states that "Profession is a symbol by occupations

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