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Death in TV-Series “Six Feet Under” Essay

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2021


In human society death is traditionally treated as sacred, mysterious, and inevitable thing, this is something that is beyond the scope of a man. Death never warns us about the time of its arrival, and the possibility to face Grim Reaper is sure to strike terror into the hearts of the most courageous people. But what if death stops being a horrific thing and becomes somebody’s business? In fact, death and its aftermath is the business sphere of the Fishers, the characters of “Six Feet Under”. The peculiar feature of this family is that for them death is the source of money as they own funeral home “Fisher & Sons”. The paradox that is based on the conventional fear of death and the perception of death almost as one more member of the family cannot but leave a significant sign on each member of the family.

Main Body

Every member of the family has a seal of death on him/her. The first character we meet and follow at once is the head of the family, Nathaniel, Sr. The episode opens with the tragic accident involving his new hearse and a bus. As the result of this accident, Nathaniel Fisher dies. The audience gets to know from Nate’s, the eldest son, words that his father was a man who had neither an accident nor even a speeding ticket during his life. Probably, his business determined his behavior and his strategy in life, for he faced death every day, and it made him be careful with his life. Nevertheless, the death of the father shows that the attitude of the family towards real death and death as business is different. The episode in morgue, when Nathaniel tells his son that it is impossible to escape from family business, shows that funeral home is like a prison for the family and they can never leave it. Though Nathaniel is dead, he repeatedly appears in the episode, it proves the idea that death is like a full member of the family.

Nate Fisher is introduced to the audience in the “Pilot” as well. He has come to celebrate Christmas with his family but it is evident that he is not hurrying home and chooses to stay in private with a beautiful stranger, Brenda. He is, evidently, reluctant to take up the family business. The flashback of Nate’s childhood justifies his attitude towards family business. It presents the father working at the corpse of the man who used to be their neighbor, with the father’s ashtray on the dead man’s chest. It is clear that such surrounding and the father’s behavior is not normal for the development of a child’s personality. Nate’s inability and unwillingness to cope with family business made his escape, but, as he said, at the age of thirty five he was nobody. The unhealthy atmosphere inside the family is responsible for his professional failures and numerous sexual relations without anything serious.

The mother of the family, Ruth, displays her attitude towards death and business in the “Pilot” as well. She finds it unable to see the body of her late husband, though she has seen numerous deceased in her life, but they are all work, personal tragedy is absolutely different thing. The death of her husband makes the mother speak to her daughter for the first time in her life. Ruth enquires if the girl has sexual relations or takes drugs, because the death has terrified her and now she wants to save the family. However, this kind of relationship between the mother and daughter is very strange, it may well be that triviality of death for these people has cooled the relationship inside the family, because they do not appreciate life as it should be done.

The first episode of “Six Feet Under” suggests open attitude of David Fisher towards family business. He is the real professional in this business; he even assesses the situation with his father from professional point of view. In Nate’s flashback, which has been already mentioned above, David wears a rubber glove and his father shows the boy how to examine a corpse. In the episode David works on his father’s dead body. This episode seems strange and disgusting for common people, but is absolutely normal for the Fishers. However, it may be observed that David also dislikes his occupation because it has spoilt his childhood. An assumption may be made that his homosexuality has roots in his childish psychological trauma but it is difficult to prove it.

The youngest child of the family, Clair, is presented in the episode as a little wild thing. She has been, obviously, neglected by her parents; she is suffering from cool relationship inside the family and seeks support from her elder brother, Nate. There is a bright episode showing the short dialogue between Keith, David’s lover and Clair, when Keith asks if Clair knows the dead man and she answers that it is her father. The answer does not prove that Clair knows the man; it is evident that they never had close relationship because Nathaniel was absorbed in his business and it was more important for him than his family. The estrangement of Nathaniel was also the cause of his wife’s affair with a hairdresser.


Drawing a conclusion, it may be said that the relationship in the family is not healthy; all members of the family have their personal tragedies that are connected or caused by their family business. The father’s maniacal obsession with his business caused the alienation of the rest of the family, his son’s escape, his wife’s adultery. Constant closeness of death has left the special seal on every member of the family, their personality, position in life, behavior.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Death in TV-Series “Six Feet Under”." November 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/death-in-tv-series-six-feet-under/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Death in TV-Series “Six Feet Under”'. 25 November.

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