De Spelder and Strickland (1983) say that the understanding of death is communicated through the process of socialization by which children learn the concepts and conversations that have value in modern society (p.64). Geoffrey Goer believes that there is evidence to suggest that death has become a taboo and has replaced sex as the unspoken subject of today’s society. Goer says children “are initiated in their early years to love (the concept of sex); But they no longer see their grandfather and express astonishment, they are told that he is resting in a beautiful garden among the flowers” (Walter, p.92-3, 1991). In this essay I will discuss whether death is what Geoffrey Goer suggests, a ‘taboo’ subject within Western Society. Firstly, I will outline what I mean by the terms ‘death’ and ‘taboo’, after which I will place reasons why academics find death to be tabooed and why some argue why death is not tabooed subject. Finally from the analysis of these arguments, I will propose from the evidence, whether in fact death is actually ‘tabooed’.
Before arguments are presented it is beneficial to outline and define what ‘taboo’ and ‘death’ mean. ‘Taboo’ is defined as “something prohibited, forbidden, by custom rather than by law. It may be something too terrible even to think of, it reality denied, or more weakly, it simply not be mentioned in conversation” (Walter, p.295, 1991). From this definition, we can see that a taboo is when there is an absence communication due to cautioning, of whatever subject, but in this case, death. The definition of ‘Death’ in the biomedical sense is the absence of life, whereby somebody is no longer living anymore. Furthermore, death is also accompanied by a ‘certification’ by a physician that...
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...was born (England) and where it encountered limitations. Elsewhere, in other industrialized societies, it is maintaining or extending it empire” p.103, 1974)
Aries, P. (1974). Western Attitudes Toward Death from The Middle Ages to The Present. London, Marion Boyars, p.85-103
De Spelder, L.A. and Strickland, A.L. (1983). The Last Dance Encountering Death and Dying. California, Mayfield, p.1-32.
Kastenbaum, R.J. (2001). Death, Society and Human Experiences, Sydney, Allyn and Bacon, (7th Edition), p.29-58.
Mellor, P.A. (1993). ‘Death in High Modernity The contemporary presence and absence of death’ in D. Clarke, The Sociology of Death, Oxford, Blackwell, p.11- 30.
Walter, T. (1991). ‘Modern Death: Taboo or Not Taboo? Sociology, 25(2), p.293-310
Walter, T. (1994). The Revival of Death, London and New York, Routledge, p.77-92.
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