In “The Loved One” Waugh satirises American burial customs.
Discuss this statement with reference to the novel. In this essay, it will be discussed how the author of “The Loved One” satirises the American way of death and funeral industry. This will be done by analysing aspects from the ‘Happier Hunting Ground’ and ‘Whispering Glades’. In addition, the two will be compared and contrasted followed by a brief conclusion. Whispering Glades Memorial Park and mortuary represents a Disney Land like world for the deceased Californians.
The company’s cemetery is exclusive and at times very expensive and caters to the desires of the individuals whose friend or family member has passed away. However, Whispering Glades as a whole has a superficial exterior as the reality of it is ironic and contradicting. One example of this can be seen while Dennis is told during discussions about Sir Francis’ funeral arrangements that the cemetery is a restricted park which excludes those who aren’t on Caucasian race. Irony is present seeing as in the mean time, the founder of Whispering Glades, Wilbur Kentworthy also known as ‘The Dreamer’ has left a message (pg. 4) on an elaborate wall at the entrance of the cemetery which comes along as quite Christian and innocent. For example, within the message, The Dreamer states that he dreamt of a place that could be “the Happy Resting Place of Countless Loved Ones” which in turn contradicts the racist rule of Whispering Glades. Apart from irony, exaggeration can also be seen at Whispering Glades. This is demonstrated through the sections within the cemetery as people are able to be buried in ‘zones’ each with a different theme which preferably coincides with the personality of the deceased person.
These sections are priced according to how extravagant or less appealing they are. For instance, the zone called ‘Lake Isle’ ranges at a price of one thousand dollars while the zone ‘Pilgrims Rest’ is located behind the cemetery’s fuel dump and has fees as low as fifty dollars. In addition, the cemetery also provides sections for the people belonging to the ‘non-sectarian’ church of Whispering Glades such as Jews and Catholics.
Another example of exaggeration also lies within the cemetery’s services.In this case, it is the variety of coffins that individuals have access to according to shape and material, and again with their own pricing. Moreover, while Dennis is finalising the arrangements for Sir Francis, another bizarre episode takes place when the lady asks him if he would like to make ‘Before Need Provision Arrangements’ for himself while he has the opportunity.
In other words a person visiting the mortuary could choose to make decisions in advance about what they want once they die. Finally, the most significant example of the exaggeration at Whispering Glades has to do with the appearance of the deceased.The corpses are worked on as sacred pieces of art as Mr Joyboy enhances the faces in order for them to look happy and relaxed as well as performing other embalming tasks. Aimee on the other hand provides the dead with tender love and care by shampooing hair and giving them hair-doo’s, giving manicures, painting nails and applying makeup. Furthermore, The Whispering Glades also provides tailoring services in order for them to be displayed appropriately at the funerals with each being dressed according to the formality of the event.In the case of Happier Hunting Ground, satire is taken slightly to the next level as the humour is more noticeable as it is a cemetery for pets.
The exaggeration is very much existent also and particularly in the services which the mortuary provide for deceased pets. For instance, after Dennis arrives at the house where a pet has died, he asks the owner whether he would like to discuss arrangements for the dog. Dennis then offers the companies brochure and asks whether the dog shall be buried or burned.
Consequently, he informs the owner that photographs are available on different styles of urns.Additionally, Dennis further tells the man that a pastor can be organised for the beloved pet due to its religious rights. Moreover, the dead pets are also opened to the privilege of having farewell cards prepared for them. One example of this reads the following; “Arthur is thinking of you in heaven today and wagging his tail”. (pg. 20) From the above, it is seen that the death of animals and the whole process along with it, is indeed unrealistic.
Nevertheless, although both cemeteries coincide on the novels theme, Whispering Glades has a personal grudge against Happier Hunting Ground within the story.The reason for this feud is due to the fact that Whispering Glades is convinced that Happier Hunting Ground attempts to model itself around them. “They try and so everything the same as us. It seems kinda blasphemous”. (pg. 77)’ To sum up, although the aim of the novel is to humorously criticise the way of death in the U. S in an unrealistic manner, it has given a fair good insight into the capability of human beings when handling even the most sensitive aspects of life as well as showing the extent to how far commercialisation can reach.