Conclusion, Part I: Death, Sex and God: Sociological and Religious Accounts of the Death of the Young

  • Paul Yates


Gorer’s (1965) seminal account of death and mourning explored the then new territory of alienation from death. Gorer’s descriptive section on the death of children is significant because he does not mention infants but only grown children who had variously died by accident at twenty-two, from a tumour at forty-five and, in the case of an old lady in the North-West, a son who had died ‘of kidneys’.1 This last example rests nicely on the fulcrum between traditional and modern conceptions in pointing towards death as a medical rather than a social phenomenon, but representing it in colloquial terms. Most impressive in Gorer’s account is the widespread failure to find adequate ways of articulating the effects of death. The result is the impoverishment and disparagement of grief so that

giving way to grief is stigmatized as morbid, unhealthy, demoralizing — very much the same terms were used to reprobate mourning as were used to reprobate sex. Mourning is treated as if it were a weakness, a self-indulgence, a reprehensible bad habit instead of as a psychological necessity.2


Child Death Medical Discourse Late Modernity Folk Religion Colloquial Term 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    G. Gorer, Death, Grief and Mourning in Contemporary Britain (New York: Doubleday, 1965), p. 107.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    A. Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (Cambridge: Polity, 1991), p. 72.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    C. Shilling, The Body and Social Theory (London: Sage, 1993), p. 183.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    B.S. Turner, Religion and Social Theory (London: Sage, 1991), p. 229.Google Scholar
  5. 26.
    M. Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic (London: Tavistock, 1973).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Yates

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations