Mitford's book is an expose which seeks to shed light on not only much of the silliness connected to the mortuary "business" but also to cause readers to consider what is truly necessary when burying a loved one. Mitford sees morticians, funeral directors, and their like, as salesmen who prey upon other humans when they are at their weakest point. However, she also satirizes Americans' propensity for spending lavish amounts of money on making corpses look happy and peaceful and choosing expensive materials which will simply be buried in the ground.
Mitford's writing on this topic was so successful that she caused Congress to investigate the practices of funeral homes and morticians. Her book's influence is similar to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle which caused real-life change in the meat-packing industry.