On Dumpster Diving

1 January 2017

It is said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Someone’s trash may very well be someone else’s greatest treasure. As Lars Eighner begins his proclamation on his profession the constant competition between internal wealth versus external wealth is evident in his account of dumpster diving. The internal wealth constituted of happiness and self-sufficiency is constantly battling the all craved external wealth of money. Eighner is also deeply dealing with balancing fine ethics while firmly griping on to a form of survival that becomes deeply precious to him.

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Delving deep into his preference of the word “scavenging”(p. 21), Eighner begins his account on his life as a homeless person almost in a prickly manner. He utilizes his sentences as vehicles to create a subtle yet overpowering affect on his readers. He uses long-winded topic sentences that make for an assertive harbinger. Eighner does this in the opening of his 4th paragraph, when he writes, “I like the frankness of the word scavenging, which I can hardly think of without picturing a big black snail on an aquarium wall. ”(p. 1)

You can hardly go on without feeling overpowered by the imagine that is painted by this strongly composed topic sentence. In his introduction, Eighner makes it very clear to his readers that he is not a person of external (monetary) wealth; in fact he is constituted of entirely internal wealth. He is a man filled with ethics, living in a world where ethics are intransigent to survival. He uses a scientific and intellectual style as he speaks of his profession as if almost creating a manual on how to properly and justly dumpster dive.

His intelligence is striking, and makes it quite hard to believe that this man is indeed homeless. He writes rationally as he mentions, “the senses and common sense to evaluate the condition of the found materials”(p. 22) He then speaks analytically stating that, “knowing the dumpsters of a given area and checking them regularly”(p. 22) makes for a successful and most importantly, safe dive. The diction in this essay is especially important to the overall formality and effect of the essay.

His diction makes for a feel so formal, you think your reading something written by a prestigious professor, definitely not a homeless man. When Eighner is explaining the value of canned goods his diction is the vehicle for the substance of this description. He writes, “Except for carbonated beverages, all canned goods should contain a slight vacuum and suck air when first punctured. Bulging, rusty, and dented cans and cans that spew when punctured should be avoided, especially when the contents are not very acidic or syrupy. ”(p. 2)

His diction is exquisite, and truly transports us to a place were we may clearly see and feel the emotions he experiences as he examines a can that may or may not be his next meal. He is evidently strategic in his every move. Knowing well of the dumpsters he dives in and its sources. He states, “If I do not know what it is supposed to look like when it is good, I cannot be certain I will be able to tell if it is bad. ”(p. 25), he is incredibly analytical and deep even in the simplest of forms and that is what makes his writing so outstanding.

He is well aware of when to dive, how to dive, and how to do it properly and ethically. His morals are something Eighner holds on to tightly and for that we value his character all the more. We see this when he writes, “I avoid trying to draw conclusions about the people who dump in the Dumpsters I frequent. I think it would be unethical to do some although I know many people will find the idea of scavenger ethics too funny for words. ” but we do not. Instead, we develop a stronger connection with him that carries us throughout the rest of his account.

His ingenuity to create an essay so formally about a topic that is considered so vulgar and unaccepted is genius. Eighner’s use of scientific analysis, research, and philosophical discussions to describe living off dumpsters yielded a humorous, yet deadly serious piece. The juxtaposition of two seemingly opposite tones was made possible through his combination of scientific style and a pitiable subject matter, catching my interest immediately. Also, his alternating between long, complicated sentences and short, declarative sentences served to emphasize particular points.

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