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“The Town Dump”, by William Stegner, and “Dumpster Diving”, by Lars Eighner, are both essays dealing with town dumpsters. They are both similar in the sense that they both have positive feelings about the dumpsters, but “Dumpster Diving” deals more with how the dumpsters help him live, while “Town Dump” tells how the dumpster constitutes a large part of the town’s history.
In “Dumpster Diving”, Eighner tells his story of living off of the food that he finds in the dumpsters of his city.
His discussion of the many types of good food thrown away leaves people wondering if they waste too much food, or good things in general. The essay illustrates the wasteful nature of most people, and teaches a lesson in materialism.
Through most of the essay, Eighner writes in a technical fashion, describing in great detail on the various techniques that he used. He probably does not hope that the reader will follow his example, but instead uses the detail to prove that the situation exists in real life, and not just some story made up by the writer.
That detail makes the story that much more believable, and therefore makes it impact the reader harder.
Behind the more obvious explanations of the art of dumpster diving, another theme resides. It deals with the idea that stories can be told by the things found in the dumpster. “I once found a small paper bag containing some unused condoms…torn pictures of a young man. Clearly she was through with him.
In “Town Dump”, Stegner reminisces about days past spent playing in the town dumpster. When he was a child, ha would play in the dump, and sometimes find little things to keep. His involvement with the dumps is not about necessity or survival, but about enjoyment. It is not about the people that throw the things away, but about the items found inside the dumpster.
Stegner uses a much more relaxed tone instead of the more technical tone Eighner uses. This is because he is remembering something pleasant, and he wants the reader to feel his sensations. While Eighner’s tone is more useful for his own essay, the tone in “Town Dump” gives it a more nostalgic feeling, and also immerses the reader.
“Town Dump”, like “Dumpster Diving” also has the theme of finding stories of people by the items in the dump. Stegner’s best examples of this are the volumes of Shakespeare that he found in the dump. His father had bought the volumes before he was born, and by the time he found it in the dump, he found stains and burns that told the story of its passing through life.
Stegner and Eighner both wrote essays about town dumps. These essays had very different tone, and purpose, but they also had the same theme. They took two very different paths to show the reader their ideas, but in the end, they both reached the same destination.
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