It may sound odd, but Stiff by Mary Roach is by far the most lively and enthusiastic approach on discussing death that I have ever read. The author did something in this work that I never thought was possible. She made death enjoyable to read about. She even stated, “Death. It doesn’t have to be boring.” (Roach 11). She successfully took on one of the most serious, dismal topics and made it enjoyable to read. The way she is able to do this is by using a style all her own which includes the frequent use of diction, imagery, and tone to paint exactly the desired picture in the readers head. A strategy that the author uses to display her style is by using diction in forms such as analogy and sexist language. An example of an analogy in Stiff “The heart is a king, who rules over all organs of the body; the lungs are his executive, who carry out his orders; the liver is his commandant, who keeps up the discipline; the gall bladder, his attorney general . . . and the spleen; his steward who supervises the five tastes.” (Roach 171).
This is an example of a metaphor because it compares two unlike things to illustrate the role of each organ in a manner that everyday people can understand. Sexist language is used when the author writes, “Here is the secret to surviving one of these [airplane] crashes: Be male. In a 1970 Civil Aeromedical institute study of three crashes involving emergency evacuations, the most prominent factor influencing survival was gender (followed closely by proximity to exit). Adult males were by far the most likely to get out alive. Why? Presumably because they pushed everyone else out of the way.” (Roach 125). This is sexist because it makes a generalization about all men. Another strategy that the author uses is tone. The author uses a humorous tone throughout most of the book to keep readers interested. The author uses a humorous tone in quotes like, “Many people will find this book disrespectful. There is nothing amusing about being dead, they will say. Ah, but there is.” (Roach 11).
This has a humorous tone because she tries to make light of a seemingly serious situation. She does this effectively in many occasions such as when she says, ” There wasn’t an anhydrous lacrimal gland in the house, writes the author in all seriousness describing a memorial service for a medical school’s cadavers.” (Roach 103). She is using a familiar saying but replacing the words with more advanced medical words to produce a humorous effect. One more strategy that the author uses is imagery, which includes numerous uses of simile. Simile is found on page 21, “Dissection and surgical instruction, like meat-eating, requires a carefully maintained set of illusions and denial.” (Roach 21). In this selection, the author compares dissection with eating meat to show a new perspective on the subject. She uses simile again, only a few pages later, “The heads look like rubber Halloween masks.” (Roach 23). Again she uses this to compare a subject that very few people know about to a subject that the majority of the general public can relate to.