The American Way of Death Revisited Book Summary - The American Way of Death Revisited Book explained in key points

The American Way of Death Revisited summary

Jessica Mitford

Brief summary

The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford is a thought-provoking exploration of the funeral industry, revealing its questionable practices and offering insight into alternative, more affordable options for end-of-life arrangements.

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    The American Way of Death Revisited
    Summary of key ideas

    The Funeral Industry Unveiled

    In The American Way of Death Revisited, Jessica Mitford takes us on a journey through the American funeral industry, revealing its inner workings and the often exploitative practices that take place. She begins by discussing the transformation of the funeral industry from a family-run business to a corporate enterprise, highlighting the profit-driven nature of the industry.

    Mitford then delves into the process of embalming, a practice she views as unnecessary and costly. She criticizes the industry's use of fear and guilt to persuade families to spend exorbitant amounts on elaborate caskets, viewing it as a form of emotional manipulation. She also discusses the rise of the 'memorial park' concept, where cemeteries are transformed into landscaped parks, and the high costs associated with these modern burial practices.

    Consumer Rights and Funeral Legislation

    Shifting her focus to consumer rights, Mitford discusses the lack of transparency in the funeral industry and the challenges faced by consumers in making informed decisions. She highlights the need for legislation to protect consumers from unscrupulous practices, such as the sale of unnecessary services and the lack of price transparency. Mitford also discusses the role of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in regulating the funeral industry and the Funeral Rule, which aims to protect consumer rights.

    Despite the existence of the Funeral Rule, Mitford argues that it is often flouted by funeral homes, and enforcement is weak. She calls for greater consumer awareness and activism to hold the industry accountable. She also advocates for the right to choose alternative funeral practices, such as home funerals and natural burials, which are often discouraged or made difficult by industry regulations.

    The Business of Death

    Mitford then explores the business side of the funeral industry, shedding light on the financial aspects of death. She discusses the high costs associated with funerals and the financial burden it places on families, often leading them to make emotional and irrational decisions. She also criticizes the industry's sales tactics, such as pre-need contracts and high-pressure sales techniques, which she views as exploitative.

    Furthermore, Mitford examines the role of funeral directors, who she describes as salespeople rather than caregivers. She discusses the lack of standardized training and qualifications for funeral directors, leading to inconsistencies in service quality and ethical standards. She also highlights the conflict of interest that arises when funeral homes offer both funeral services and merchandise, potentially leading to biased recommendations.

    Looking to the Future

    In the final sections of The American Way of Death Revisited, Mitford discusses the changing attitudes towards death and funerals. She notes the growing interest in alternative funeral practices, such as cremation, green burials, and DIY funerals, as people seek more personalized and environmentally friendly options. She also highlights the emergence of non-profit funeral societies and online funeral planning resources, providing consumers with more choices and information.

    In conclusion, Mitford calls for greater transparency, consumer education, and regulation in the funeral industry. She advocates for the recognition of death as a natural part of life and the need to approach it with dignity and respect, rather than as a commercial opportunity. The American Way of Death Revisited serves as a powerful critique of the funeral industry and a call to action for consumer empowerment and industry reform.

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    What is The American Way of Death Revisited about?

    The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford is a thought-provoking critique of the funeral industry in the United States. Through meticulous research and sharp wit, Mitford exposes the commercialization and exploitation surrounding death and funerals. Originally published in 1963 and updated in 1998, this book challenges traditional practices and prompts readers to reconsider their own beliefs and choices.

    The American Way of Death Revisited Review

    The American Way of Death Revisited (1998) investigates the funeral industry in the United States and uncovers shocking practices that help readers navigate the dark side of death. Here's why this book is a worthwhile read:

    • It exposes the manipulative tactics used by funeral homes to exploit grieving families, shedding light on an industry that profits from tragedy.
    • Through extensive research and interviews, the author presents a comprehensive analysis of funeral customs that challenges societal norms and sparks critical thinking.
    • The book explores alternative burial options and provides practical advice for making informed decisions, ensuring readers are empowered in an often overwhelming process.

    Who should read The American Way of Death Revisited?

    • Readers interested in the funeral industry and its practices
    • Individuals who want to understand the cultural and societal aspects of death in America
    • People looking to make informed decisions about funeral planning and end-of-life arrangements

    About the Author

    Jessica Mitford was a British-born author and journalist known for her investigative and satirical writing. She was a member of the famous Mitford family and became a prominent figure in the civil rights and labor movements. Mitford's most notable work, The American Way of Death Revisited, exposed the exploitative practices of the funeral industry. Her other works include Hons and Rebels and Kind and Usual Punishment. Mitford's sharp wit and fearless approach to tackling social issues made her a respected and influential voice in her time.

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    The American Way of Death Revisited FAQs 

    What is the main message of The American Way of Death Revisited?

    The main message of The American Way of Death Revisited is a critique of the funeral industry and its exploitative practices.

    How long does it take to read The American Way of Death Revisited?

    The reading time for The American Way of Death Revisited varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The American Way of Death Revisited a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The American Way of Death Revisited is worth reading for its eye-opening insights into the funeral industry and its impact on our lives. Thought-provoking and enlightening.

    Who is the author of The American Way of Death Revisited?

    The author of The American Way of Death Revisited is Jessica Mitford.

    What to read after The American Way of Death Revisited?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The American Way of Death Revisited, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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