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On Dumpster Diving
Transcript of On Dumpster Diving
By Lars Eighner
Language & Tone
The speaker of the essay is the author, Lars Eighner. Eighner is an essayist, a gay erotica writer, and a former assistant ward worker at the Austin State Hospital. His most notable work is
Travels with Lizbeth
, which recounts the three years he was homeless with his dog in the 1980's.
Throughout the essay, Eighner uses first person point of view. His ideas and thoughts are presented with a personal voice.
Eighner wrote "On Dumpster Diving" a year before he became homeless. The essay led to the writing of Travels with Lizbeth. In his essay, Eighner reflects on his life as a scavenger and analyzes what people in today's society consider "trash."
Eighner doesn't have a specific audience, but the audience can be the general public, especially those who don't fully understand a scavenger's way of life.
~To describe a scavenger’s way of life and how he or she survives with his or her limited resources
~To criticize those who take what they have for granted and not fully appreciating or understanding the value of the things they currently possess
~To explain how people of today’s society live their lives
A scavenger’s way of life (dumpster diving) - how they live and feel about life
Wastefulness of resources by people in today’s society
There are tone shifts throughout the essay. At first, Eighner is informative and descriptive, then, he becomes critical and analytical.
The tone of the essay is positive; Eighner is okay with his situation and doesn’t look down on himself or others who live a similar way of life.
Rhetorical Mode & Structure
~The main rhetorical mode is narration. Throughout most of the story, he introduces all his ideas through stories and experiences. He implements each of the strategies he uses as a dumpster diver as if it were a story.
~Like his encounter with a Pat O'Brien's Hurricane mix, he uses his experience to back up and support his strategies with diving.
~He gives examples of many of the different things you would encounter in a dumpster, and how to process through them efficiently.
~ He uses the process analysis mode during his explanation or the phases of a dumpster diver.
~ He also uses Classification, where he breaks down the life of a dumpster diver, and how every single day is gone through as one.
Other Purposes in the Mode
~ He is trying to prove that people can actually live off of dumpsters because of all the things people throw out that appear to be "wasted" or "useless."
~ Informing the reader that even though he's living off the refuse of others, he is proud. He is living life with necessities, not personal desires.
~Introduces himself as a dumpster diver
~Proves it is a valid and resourceful way of living through
~A description of the process
~A narration of examples & experiences
Shift in tone, focus, & style
not ashamed of this way of living
~Has a sense of pride
~It becomes a tone of pity towards the end for people who live off of desires instead of necessities
~He focuses on explaining his way of life during the past years, proving the advantages of DD
~Style: He first shows his past experiences
~He explains steps and efficient strategies for surviving on dumpsters
~He also explains many precautions he took while looking for things
~Summarizes and gives a lesson
How the Essay Begins / Ends & Why
~Eighner begins with an explanation for his fascination towards dumpsters and dumpster diving. He does this to introduce to the reader this way of life that people seem to look at with disgust.
~He shows his willingness to adjust to this way of living due to difficult circumstances that left him in poverty
~Eighner ends with lessons that could be learned (changing the way society sees garbage)
~Sums up what he does as a DD
~Proves that the life of a DD isn't so bad
Eighner makes use of many rhetorical devices to explain how society imprudently discards their trash. Eighner elaborates on the concepts of dumpster diving by using appeals, antithesis, parallelism, asyndeton, and anaphora to show its uniqueness and value when struggling through a life of poverty.
~Using ethos and pathos, Eighner describes his experiences and elaborates on his many encounters of oddities, treasures, and adventures when he frequents the dumpsters. He expresses his contemplation when he says, “Dumpsters are often sad — abandoned teddy bears, shredded wedding books, despaired-of sales kits. I find many pets lying in state in Dumpsters,” (170).
~Each dumpster he visits tells a different story, and he is surprised about the various things he learns from them. Eighner displays great caution towards suspicious items in dumpsters by using antithesis. “Most often such things are found in the original packaging, which is not so much a positive sign as it is the absence of a negative one,” (163).
“A boxed pizza can be written off; an unboxed
pizza does not exist” (164).
~Eighner employs parallelism when he explains a dumpster diver’s adjustment to this way of life:
“He can wipe the egg yolk off the found can, but he cannot erase the stigma of eating garbage out of his mind” (167).
~Asyndeton is also present when he explains his many findings in the dumpsters: “Boom boxes, candles, bedding, toilet paper, medicine, books, typewriter, a virgin male love doll, change sometimes amounting to many dollars…” (162).
~He uses anaphora to illustrate his perception of dumpster diving. “I like the frankness of the word ‘scavenging,’ which I can hardly think or without picturing a big black snail on an aquarium wall. I live from the refuse of others. I am a scavenger. I think it is a sound and honorable niche…” (162).
~Eighner writes that many times when he was homeless he lost everything but the clothes he was wearing and his dog. What can you tell about his life on the streets?
~In your own words, give a one-sentence definition of Dumpster diving.
~ How do you feel about dumpster diving after hearing what Eighner had to say about it? Do you feel sympathy? Pity? Impatience? Contempt? Disgust? Why?
Eighner works towards an informative tone (and later becomes critical ) through the use of diction, sentence selection, and imagery.
"Bulging, rusty, dented cans and cans that spew when punctured should be avoided" (p.109).
"Every grain of rice seems to be a maggot" (p.113).
In paragraphs 4-5, Eighner examines his own diction. He explains his use of the word "scavenger" and discusses this to lessen the idea that dumpster diving is "disgusting".
Eighner mentions people "
food and handouts" (p.112).
He uses short sentences to clarify his thoughts on a subject. For example:
"The land is now covered with cities" (p.118).
"I am a scavenger" (p.108).
The author, in select paragraphs, advances an informative tone by structuring sentences to be more scientific and an example can be found in paragraph 30 on page 111.
Eighner uses cumulative sentences to advance his tone and to provide emphasis. For example:
"Dumpster things are often sad - abandoned teddy bears, shredded wedding books, despaired-of sales kits."
"Every bit of glass may be a diamond, they think, and all that glistens, gold" (p.113).
~ If you were in his position, would you have scavenged?