Robert Bialecki Professor Jones English 247, Critical Writing 6 November 2009 Materialism and Our Modern Culture

The article I chose to analyze is called “What‟s Changed?” by Jane Hammerslough. In the introduction, she mentions that materialism has existed for thousands of years, but it has gained significant strength in our modern culture. Hammerslough asks us to consider the question, “What‟s Changed?” She attributes the change to four factors: the urgency of technology, the increasing array of problems and products, more products connecting the “spirit” of the subject with material objects, and values. This analysis will focus of the effectiveness of these four factors. The first factor she mentions is the urgency of technology. “Basic needs such as food, shelter, and protection from dangerous elements haven‟t changed. However, as we have gained knowledge of and control over unknowns through technology, the concept of what we need to survive has grown. What‟s different now is that today‟s frenetic pace involves an infinite, everchanging variety of material solutions” (Hammerslough 314). The evidence she cites is a personal experience of an interaction with a neighbor in the early 1990s. She ran into her neighbor, a man who had spent most of the last decade in prison. He was carrying a typewriter that he had found in a discard pile. The man was excited about his find, and Hammerslough didn‟t have the heart to tell him that typewriters had been replaced by computers and that he could probably find an earlier model if he looked hard enough (Hammerslough 314). Although I agree with Hammerslough‟s claim, I feel like her evidence is insufficient. Even today, it is

possible to survive without a computer. The Amish people would be a good example of that. I feel that Hammerslough could have used a better example to support her claim. The second factor Hammerslough mentions is the increasing array of problems and products. She notes that supermarkets today carry up to ten times the number of items they did in the 1950s. Because of the overwhelming number of new products, there are now more options than ever to consider when buying a product. Hammerslough uses the example of toothpaste as evidence. Originally, a consumer simply had to make the choice of one brand over another. Nowadays, there are many different types from which to choose. Do you want a gel or a paste? Are you looking for protection form tartar, plaque, gingivitis, or halitosis? You also need to consider whiteness, brightness, taste, and appearance (Hammerslough 315). I agree completely with Hammerslough‟s claim. Her evidence is perfectly sound. In fact, you could use just about any type of product on the market as an example to illustrate Hammerslough‟s point. The third factor she mentions is that there are more products connecting the “spirit” of the subject with material objects. According to Hammerslough, “The number of objects tied in to other subject – from characters in books, on television, or in movies, to real-life sports stars and other celebrities – has exploded in recent years” (Hammerslough 315). As evidence, she cites the example of the auction of the estate of the late Andy Warhol. Warhol‟s possessions (not just his paintings) sold for hundreds of times the amount he paid for them just because they were chosen, owned, and touched by Warhol himself. Hammerslough explains that buying things like these makes people feel like they have a personal link to that person. Another example she gives is Jackie Kennedy‟s fake pearls, which sold for over $300,000. However, celebrities who are still alive also offer us opportunities to buy expensive products that are “blessed by their essence.” Hammerslough cites the examples of apparel endorsed by Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and

Tiger Woods, as well as Martha Stewart‟s wares (Hammerslough 316). I agree with Hammerslough‟s claim, and her evidence is sound. She has supplied us with a sufficient number of examples to illustrate and support her claim. Hammerslough‟s final factor pertains to values, which she considers to be “the new consumable good.” She claims that more so than in the past, we are asked to question our values when deciding which product to purchase. These questions may come from advertisers, the judgements of our peers, or even something inside ourselves (Hammerslough 317). As evidence, she provides examples of such questions: “Don‟t you care enough to send the very best flowers? Don‟t you want to protect your kids most effectively from germs? Shouldn‟t that anniversary bauble say „you‟d marry her all over again‟?” (Hammerslough 317). She also cites a more specific example of how our values are played upon. It‟s about an ad for a brand of blue jeans. The ad is six pages long, and each page shows a picture of a couple and tells us how long the relationship lasted. As you turn the pages, you notice that one partner from the relationship on the previous page ended up with someone else. On the last page, you see the divorced woman from the previous page hugging a friend. The text below the photo reads “At least some things last forever…” Hammerslough states the message behind this ad is “You may want lasting love, but you‟ll have to settle for lasting jeans. But if you buy the jeans, maybe love will endure, too” (Hammerslough 318). Once again, I agree with Hammerslough‟s claim. It‟s a known fact that advertisers try to play on our values in an effort to convince us that their product is the best. Hammerslough‟s examples do a good job of demonstrating this. I believe that Hammerslough has done a good job with this article. Her claims and the evidence she uses to support them are clear and easy to identify. For the most part, I feel that the

evidence she uses is successful at convincing readers to believe and accept both her claims and the main point of the article.

Works Cited Hammerslough, Jane. “What‟s Changed?” Dematerializing: Taming the Power of Possessions. Da Capo Press, 2001. Kress, Anne and Suellyn Winkle. NextText Making Connections Across and Beyond the Disciplines: pg. 313-318. 30 October 2009.