Matheson's works seem to hit or miss completely with me. Although I Am Legend failed in my opinion, "The Funeral" succeeded. Where Matheson's unique style fell apart in the pseudoscience of I Am Legend, his writing flares with stoicism and the macabre in “The Funeral,” which fit exquisitely with the subject of death and funeral services.
Morton Silkline starts the story offering solace for a price, keeping only profit in mind, and never truly taking to heart the deceased. After his initial encounter with the vampire planning his own funeral, though, the narration becomes more disconnected from Silkline’s viewpoint. The question is presented to Silkline whether the job is still worth the profit if the task were even more ghastly, and even a little life threatening. During this disconnected narration, the world spins out of control around Silkline, and he barely interacts with it.
In the third section, the narration shifts back into a close POV of Silkline’s mindset as he decides if his experience changed his mind at all about his job. In the end, his character grows even grimmer when he welcomes a new monster into his office and fondles the gold coins his former client left as payment.
There were two mental notes I made about this piece while reading. The first--this story holds the right amount of spookiness to make me consider it a horror piece; however, it also works as a humorous tale, too. I admire writers who interweave fright and laughter. The two are connected, but I haven't found the fine line that separates them in my own work. I'm also afraid that my morbid sense of humor may influence whether I find something funny when it is really horrific.
The second mental note I made relates more to the stereotype Matheson works with: the uncaring undertaker. This is a short piece, so I think it works, and the story works because the stereotypical character is still challenged and grows accordingly. However, in my experience, undertakers have always been very sincere and warm. It takes a strong person for that position, and if this story had been a longer piece, I think the character would have been more interesting altered in that direction. Again, that's not a flaw in this story. It’s just an element that made me question why this piece worked while I Am Legend did not. I think part of my dislike for I Am Legend stems from finding Neville’s character to be melodramatic and a stereotypical man’s man. Now that I think about it, while I read I Am Legend, I actually pictured the guy from the Dos Equis commercials.