The informant is a male in his 50s. He was born to two Greek parents in New York. He was brought up in the Greek Orthodox Church. He lived in the Bronx for most of his youth before moving to the suburbs in Connecticut. He has worked as a journalist for most of his life, a job in which he spent a good deal of time in the Middle East as a foreign correspondent. He now lives in Southern California as a software developer. He is divorced with three children.
The informant first learned this proverb as a young adult, although the cannot remember exactly where. He uses it occasionally, more than any other proverb. To him it means that a person comes into the world with nothing, no possessions or materials, and that is how he or she will go out. The informant will use the proverb if he sees someone being venal about their possessions, or obsessing about some material object they have lost. He uses this proverb because he believes that it encompasses a self-defining idea, that at its root it encapsulates wisdom and knowledge. The message behind the proverb is meaningful to him and represents what considers to be a good life view.
Text: There are no pockets in a shroud.
Analysis: It is interesting that the informant considers this proverb to represent his ideal life outlook. It seems to be contradictory to the American dream, which espouses that people should work hard to move their station in life upward, indicated by material gains. This proverb indicates that it does not matter how hard you work to gain, as in death, nothing material matters. The informant’s preference for this proverb could be his Greek background, which might be from cultural difference. Or it could represent a cognitive dissonance in the American people. This cognitive dissonance would allow people to value the acquisition of material wealth in life, while at the same time believing that objects are not all important in life.