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Lars Eighner’s essay “On Dumpster Diving” depicts the lifestyle and necessary steps in the art of scavenging. Homelessness is targeted as a negative connotation, but Eighner tries maneuver these notions by showing contrasts in his personal experiences and irony depiction. Based on his own experiences, this personal essay contains evidence to show how Eighner targeted social class to make apparent claims about modern consumerism and materialism. He begins to define what “dumpster diving” is and makes a correlation to scavenging as a way of survival. Furthermore, he described the technical difficulties of dumpster diving and makes hints to what statues a scavenger. He also enumerates the stages of dumpster diving and concluded by making a direct link to consumer society. Students should read “On dumpster diving” by Lar Eighner because it makes the readers question the social norms of society and its correlation to material items.
Eighner demonstrates his point of view on consumer society, with the lack of empathy from the public toward the edible food being thrown out. Throughout his personal experiences, Eighner has come to the conclusion that there are positives in finding food in a dumpster and scavenging what was discarded. He stated that, “A lot of perfectly good food can be found in dumpsters.” Therefore, he goes to discuss how the food is acquired through his multiple searching methods and that many of the foods found can be eaten with confidence. The author also characterizes the idea of college students throwing food because that’s all that they know to do. He states, “Maybe the item was discarded through carelessness, ignorance, or wastefulness.” The idea of a wasteful society stems from the constant waste being thrown out every day without a valid reason. Consequently, Eighner is contrasting college students and consumerism not to degrade them, but to indicate the common trait many individuals have when on the topic of actually caring about the food you throw. This is allowing Eighner to creatively establish his opinion while keeping the truth behind his idea. Furthermore, the assertion also can be seen as a connection to Eighner himself and how others might perceive him just as a dumpster diver and nothing else. Society does not know the story behind certain individuals similar to how schoolers don’t know when something is likely to spoil.
Eighner instills that dumpster diving fills a function in a consumer society and holding material goods is only part of the process. Therefore, Eighner wants readers to know that items have no sense of value no matter how rare they are. The idea of being socialized to think about the art of acquiring things, but what can be indicated as truly valuable? Materialism arose from this idea due to lack of definition of what would truly be seen as valuable. For that reason, Eighner believes there to be, “no value in the abstract”. This idea formulates the basis of not believing in material things seeing as mental ideas last longer. Consequently, Eighner realizes that scavenging is similar to self- reliance. That one has to be individually sufficient to live. Eighner also uses the contrast between the working class and the idea of competition to always wanting more. Eighner states that, “between us are the rat-race millions who have confounded their selves with the objects they grasp.” This examination of society consequently shows the reality of consumers and all of Eichner’s points lead up to this very moment. Therefore, he feels as though life is built on the essence of always wanting something else. Eighner makes connections to irony when indicating that he rich are still in the race when they already have enough as it is. Only people like dumpster divers would see the true irony being as they are the ones who are sorry for them in the end. These examples show how the power of inanimate objects can have on our lives and perceptions around us.
To conclude, Eighner sets an idea of consumer society and how it controls society’s norms. He is trying to display the idea that the real problem is not the scavengers or the dumpster divers, it is the people perceiving the scavengers and dumpster divers. We should pay attention because this personal essay will aid readers in understanding personal material values and not socially directed matter.
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