Behind The Formaldehyde Curtain And The Fear Of Dying By Elisabeth Kubler Ross

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No one can escape death. It’s one of so few unavoidable certainties in our lives and has held an important position in every human culture since time immemorial. Of course, this position has is different from culture to culture, and shifts over time. This is particularly evident in western culture. The shift is discussed at length in two essays: “Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain” by Jessica Mitford, and ‘The Fear of Dying’ by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Both explore different aspects of these themes – Mitford’s essay being deconstruction of a the uniquely North American process of embalming, and Kübler-Ross’ being an indictment of the clinical depersonalization of contemporary western attitudes toward death. Each utilize many different tools as writers, such as rhetorical modes. Rhetorical modes they share are exemplification, description, and compare-and-contrast.

Exemplification is rhetorical mode in which a writer will illustrate their point by providing multiple pieces of evidence that support their thesis. Kübler-Ross’ opening paragraph is written entirely in the exemplification rhetorical mode. She lists the ways many ancient cultures treat corpses: they’re bad; something to be feared. Hebrews regarded dead bodies as unclean; Native Americans shot arrows into the air to keep evil spirits away when a person died. (Kübler-Ross, 1969, Pg 206) These examples serve to provide evidence as to how modern willful blindness to the fact of death are nothing new, that fear of death

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