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The Effect that Material Goods Have on The Happiness in Our Lives

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“Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important, so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”  The Minimalists In Graham Hill’s NY Times commentary, Living with Less. A Lot Less, in which he examines the effect that material goods have on the happiness in our lives, Hill creates an informational yet aggressive tone through the article with the use the of persuasive strategies, Pathos and Ethos. Using these strategies to convey to the Reader, that consuming material goods only led to bad results and a hoarding problem. He attempts to convince the public that consumerism led to not happiness, but dissatisfaction. While he does use two persuasive strategies, his argument lacks content in Ethos. Hill fails to explain in an in-depth analysis as to why America’s endless consumption of materials goods does not actually lead to an increase in happiness.

Hill starts out his commentary article by explaining his minimalistic lifestyle, living in a four-hundred-and-twenty-foot squared studio apartment, sleeping on a fold-down wall bed, having very few clothes and using only two bowls in is house. For the introduction, Hill sticks with using Pathos as his persuasive strategy. He describes to the audience how through a minimalistic lifestyle, he became wealthy and describes a time when he and his partner sold their Internet consultancy company for more money than he could ever imagine. Like any other person would, Hill bought a large house, designer clothes, accessories, and a ton of gadgets as well as a nice luxury car. But Hill had reached a point in his life where he had more money to spend than he knew what to do with. He was “filthy rich” at this point in his life. Hill realized that he could have and did have all the materials items one could ever want, yet he was dissatisfied (Hill 309).

He uses Pathos effectively in the introduction, and after the audience can connect with Hill on an emotional level. Many can relate to him when he describes buying materials goods, but still being dissatisfied with his lifestyle.In the body of his commentary article, Hill abruptly switches his persuasive strategy from Pathos to Ethos. He starts out by explaining that he now owned two homes to himself and stressed the idea that he was not the only one who’s life was clustered with excess belongings (Hill 309). He also uses logos by citing credible sources and studies that explain that almost everyone is using more space than necessary to live like he was. He lists facts from these studies to explain America’s wastefulness saying, “We take up more than 3 times the amount of space per capita than we did 60 years ago…

America has a $22 billion personal storage industry because of America’s endless consumerism of material goods and Experts believe consumerism plays a big part in pushing our planet to the brink of its inevitable end” . Hill ends the body of his article with a rhetorical question, “Does all this endless consumption result in measurably increased happiness” ? While most of the body paragraphs did succeed in providing credible sources to support his logos fueled argument, the author fails to explain in-depth as to why America’s endless consumption of materials goods does not actually lead to an increase in happiness.

In the closing of his commentary, Hill returns to his first persuasive strategy, Pathos, connecting with our inner emotions. As Hill discusses how he began to start an emotional relationship with a woman. After this his attachment to materials goods eventually faded, and he now focused his life on his relationships with others more than his relationships with material goods. Hill now talks about his personal experiences such as trips with his friend, his idea of starting a company that focused on the environmentally friendly bio-degradable cups and starting an environmental design blog .

This effectively helps the audience to connect with him on an emotional level. It shows his audience that the highlights of our life are our relationships with people and the experiences we have, not our relationships with material goods and its endless consumption. The whole conclusion is focused on Pathos, in which he explains that there ultimately is no connection between material goods and long-lasting happiness, but that there is a connection to happiness and with the irreplaceable experiences and emotional relationships we have with other everyone we interact with on a day to day basis.

Hill’s use of the persuasive strategies, Pathos Ethos and a little logos, tend to be effective in persuading the audience. His idea that only our experiences and emotional relationships with others will give one long-lasting happiness rather than the endless consumerism of material goods. However, his use of Pathos works in some instances and doesn’t in others. He does an excellent job helping the reader connect with his emotional side, elaborating more on his personal experiences, such as the relationships he has with his friends and family.

This is something the audience can connect to very well, but what the audience will struggle to connect to is in the introduction when he describes his wealthy lifestyle; where he has more money than he knows what to spend on. Not many can relate to being able to endlessly consume material goods. Majority of people are living a middle-class lifestyle, spending conservatively. This is where Hill falls short for most of his article, but when he closes the commentary with liberal use of pathos he manages to bring the audience back to relate to his emotionally charged statements. The main point he succeeds to push across is that: the happiness in our lives will ultimately be led and influenced by our relationships with others and not by the value of our material goods.

Works Cited

  1. Hill, Graham. “Living with Less. A Lot Less.” Pursuing Happiness: A Bedford Spotlight Reader. Ed. Matthew Parfitt and Dawn Skorczewski. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016. 308-312

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