Quindlen’s essay gives excellent points regarding the differences in America’s typical shopping habits. Additionally, she mentions how people acquire all this “stuff” but seem to never realize, “why did I get this? ”(501). Quindlen makes her audience visualize a world where we acquire our needs versus our meaningless desires. Yet, she fails to mention people who could live a life of happiness through the possessions they acquire. In summary, Quindlen supports her point of view with examples of American spending habits in the past decades of depression compared to now.
She mentions Black Friday and how people become enthralled by cheap bargains (Quindlen 500-501). In Quindlen’s essay, she refers to an accident in which a worker at Walmart was trampled to death by a mob of shoppers and despite the horrific incident people kept shopping (500). With the U. S. depression, Black Friday brings hopes of more money spent, therefore a rise in the markets. The dream of an uplifted economy became unrealistic as people began to realize they could not afford their desirables, not even at a low cost.
Today, Americans have an exorbitant amount of credit debt so they can acquire items that they want, without actually paying for them outright, for example, the Chatty Cathy doll Quindlen wanted in her childhood compared to the orange her dad received that had to be paid for (500-501). According to Quindlen, a family having less means they can appreciate possessions more and what they possess therefore has real meaning (502). Quindlen’s essay gives strong points about America’s addiction to consumption, the economic decline, and the necessities of life.
There are plenty of examples that Quindlen gives to make her point across, that American’s spend money unwisely. For instance, in one of the examples, she mentions how every 16 months a person replaces a cell phone because it’s not as new anymore, and how toys are forgotten that eventually end up being junk (501). Quindlen then states the obvious “stuff does not bring salvation” (501). However, she lacks examples of cases where people’s wants actually provide the happiness they usually expect.
Rich people, for example, have an extra sense of security because the worry and stress that belong to the poor is something the rich don’t have and don’t want. Plus, who wouldn’t want to afford desires such as not living pay check to pay check or putting their kid(s) through college? Sometimes not being able to afford these items can bring on depression or verbal abuse into a home. The reader’s would have a better understanding of the essay if she included some of these situations.
Overall, Quindlen portrays her idea of happiness not being the materialistic things in life, but by the things that have true meaning. By true meaning, I believe she means items such as photographs that have a significant memory attached to it. She jokingly states, “Ask people what they would grab if their house were on fire, the way our national house is on fire right now. No one ever says it’s the tricked-up microwave they got at Wal-Mart” (502).
She brings her essay together nicely by asserting examples from her childhood, the U. S. depression, and a family that is happy with what little they have. The essay brings belief to the reader that in today’s society many people spend money on things that end up being junk and take for granted the needs they should possess. People make investments that they later come to realize have lost their value because they did not really need it. Even though she made some valuable points in her essay, more than likely America will still make unnecessary expenditures.
Therefore, with Quindlen’s idea that “stuff is not salvation,” there needs to be more examples shown of people who can afford their wants and with that they are still able to obtain happiness (501). She does however prove her point that the items we possess should have more of a priceless value rather than items we could live without. If stuff is not salvation why do so many of us seek more income to possess more items? This question is simple to answer with more research on people that don’t have the worries of the less-fortunate.
Again, while we shouldn’t be materialistic, we shouldn’t just settle for less, nor should we be greedy and keep wanting more. Quindlen’s views made me reevaluate my spending habits and hopefully the next time I purchase something I can answer the question “Why did I get this? ”(501). Ultimately, Quindlen’s essay is interesting and worth the read.
Quindlen, Anna. “Stuff is Not Salvation. ” Perspectives on Contemporary Issues: Readings Across the Disciplines. 6th ed. Ed. Katherine Anne Ackley. Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2012. 500-02. Print.