OMER, DRAPER, TAILOR, HABERDASHER, FUNERAL FURNISHER, &c.

Category: Daily Life | Type: Discussion | Title: David Copperfield (in Context) | Author: Charles Dickens | Ch: I Have a Memorable Birthday

An "omer" appears in Exodus as a dry measure equaling about seven and a half pints. Omer measures corpses for their coffins and customers for their funeral clothes.

Dickens rarely loses a chance to satirize the Victorian funeral industry and the society's macabre (and costly) appetite for mourning. (See Death, Heaven, and the Victorians, an exceptional compilation of text and illustration.) But Omer's Funeral Furnisher is consistent with what we know of Yarmouth: no posturing, no pretensions of solemnity. Omer's corpulence underscores his affablility. The establishment sings through death and runs on cheerfully despite the occasion. This is not denial but affirmation of life. In fact it is the intemperate, grief-stricken mourners (the Mrs. Gummidges and those like her) who are in denial of life itself. Song, laughter, and erotic playfulness persist within the shadow of the valley of death, all but dispelling the gloom. 

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