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“Marrying Absurd” by Joan Didion Essay

The essay “Marrying Absurd” written by Joan Didion provides the background of wedding ceremonies in Las Vegas, Nevada. The essay begins with the history of when weddings became popular in Las Vegas in the 60s, and how it is now sold as a Vegas commodity. Didion further explains how the past of Vegas as a mobster-run, gambling and prostitution center have fueled the idea for further instant gratification. She notes the vast amount of chapels open 24 hours a day littered along the road advertising on freeway billboards miles before the famous city lights. Didion tries to make the reader see how absurd the wedding industry of Las Vegas has really become. As she states, the “wedding business” (Didion 63) of Las Vegas operates “on the premise that marriage, like craps, is a game to be played when the table seems hot”(Didion 63). Today, marriage in Las Vegas relies on its unique cultural environment to provide more than a religious sacrament. A Vegas wedding boasts the potential for winning beyond your wildest dreams.

A passage from Marrying Absurd that caught my attention was when Didion writes “The geographical implausibility reinforces the sense that what happens there has no connection with ‘real’ life; Nevada cities like Reno and Carson City are ranch towns, Western towns, places behind which there is some historical imperative. But Las Vegas seems to exist only in the eye of the beholder” (63). This section of text caught my attention because it adds to the allure of Las Vegas. Although Las Vegas is geographically there, it seems to be a place of its own, having forgot or lost touch with its surrounding cities. Due to the right away, immediate gratification-type of attitude Las Vegas presents, the quote from Didion really adds to this mystique. The idea of being able to immediately get married at any time of the day or night with no major rules or regulations seems to be mysteriously attractive to someone who seeks instant or immediate results.

The only place you can meet someone, fall in love, win a fortune, get married, and lose everything in the same night seems attractive to some people. For this, Las Vegas is a city that can only really be seen through the eyes of one who is in it. Didion captures that in the quote, expressing this in a negative, judgmental tone in her writing. Joan Didion’s essay gave me a different perspective of marriage in Las Vegas. I had always been aware that Las Vegas was a place of temptation, gambling, prostitution, drugs, drinking, and sin (hence the nickname “sin city”). Las Vegas was also a known place for people to elope in my mind, so I was familiar with the idea of people going to get married quickly.

However, never in my mind did I imagine marriage as capital. Didion’s writing gave me a different image of how Las Vegas culturally markets weddings and how they use it as an investment for local business and for the individual. Her writings gave me a perspective I had not considered on a topic I had not thought about before. Now, weddings in Las Vegas are just as big as the gambling and prostitution. Big business has taken over what use to be sacred, and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. It makes me wonder what other sacred events Vegas will twist and turn in the future in order to continue to make a profit.

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