What are the ways of caring for a dead body described in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes?

The most common way of caring for a dead body, as described in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, is embalming, which slows down the process of decomposition. Dead bodies are also often cremated. Caring for a dead body is usually a prelude to disposing of it, normally by burial or scattering the ashes.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Caitlin Doughty's memoir Smoke Gets In Your Eyes draws on her own experience as both a mortician and a historian to describe and compare the ways in which various cultures have cared for dead bodies. The most common methods of disposing of dead bodies are burial and cremation. After a body is cremated, the ashes are often buried, kept in an urn, or scattered.

Unless burial or cremation takes place very soon after death, the body will usually be preserved by embalming. Mummification was an ancient Egyptian method of embalming, and various other forms of temporary preservation have been used throughout history. The most common modern method is to replace the dead body's blood with a chemical fluid to slow decomposition. This allows mourners at a funeral to view the body in an open casket.

For most bodies, the phase of caring for them is a brief prelude to disposal. They can be preserved by taxidermy, but this is rare, and examples are generally agreed to be ghoulish in appearance. Bodies can be buried without coffins for composting (and therefore used to grow a tree or other plant) or buried at sea (where they are swiftly consumed). Doughty also mentions oTibetan-style sky-burial (in which the body is eaten by vultures), and the consensual, sacred cannibalism of dead bodies that used to be practiced by the Wari' people.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial