31 May 2013
Summary of “The Embalming of Mr. Jones”
In the essay “The Embalming of Mr. Jones,” (1963), Jessica Mitford is describing a procedure of embalming of a corpse. She writes that people pay a ton of money each year, but “not one in ten thousand has any idea of what actually takes place,” and it is extremely hard to find books and any information about this subject. She assumes that it must be a reason for such secrecy, and may be if people knew more about this procedure, they would not want this service after their death.
Mitford writes that embalming has long tradition in America, but it used to be performed at home, and all members of the family had to witness the procedure.
Now this procedure is taken care of by professional morticians, who studied their profession for nine or twelve months after high school in an embalming school. They call themselves “demisurgeons.”
After death, the body is taken to a morgue and reposed in the preparation room. This room looks like a surgery room. It is tiled, sterile and packed with surgical instruments: scalpels, scissors, augers, forceps, clamps, needles, pumps, tubes, bowls, and basin. It is also full of different chemicals, sprays, and special cosmetics, such as pastels, oils, powders, and creams that help to soften or dry human tissue and mask any imperfection. There is even plaster to cast and replace any part of the body. There are devices that help to reposition shoulders, head, arms, hands, and feet.
The first part of embalming is removing all blood and fluids. This process does not take too long in the hands of a professional. He makes tiny incisions of the veins to remove all blood and replaces it with embalming fluid. This procedure is done for disinfecting and protecting a corpse from discoloration. There is a choice of different embalming chemicals that suit different people and produce different effects on skin texture and its color tone. The
Cited: Mitford, Jessica. “The Embalming of Mr. Jones.” 1963