Explore how the poet presents his thoughts on life in ‘A Consumer’s Report’ Use examples from the language of the poem to support your answer [15 marks] Peter Porter focuses on the consumerist society and the problems of life that a person goes through in his poem ‘A Consumer’s Report’. This is explored by the sustained metaphor of life and the monologue used which has an implied listener which is the reader. The tone drifts from a solemn one to a cynical one to highlight life’s problems in that to portray how people see life as a bad thing. The main issue from the poem is that it is a life is satirical and people have become too indulged by product that it has become a consumerist capitalist state of society.
The first line of the poem, “The name of the product I tested is Life” expresses the poet’s feelings that to him life is just a product and this adds to the title as it is a comparison of life to a product. Products, being tangible goods, have “different labels, sizes and colours”. The poet comments on this because he feels that there are different races of human beings and that now everyone is being mixed together into a much more multicultural society. Since a product is anything that can be bought anywhere and anyhow, the poet compares this to life to show that nowadays life has been taken for granted and that it has not been valued. There is the irony used also “that my answers are confidential”, when the poet articulates the answers to the question throughout the poem. This tone also resembles life as such because people end up doing things that they do not intend to – which are listed as problems in the poem.
Things are piling up so fast after all, the world got by for a thousand million years without this, do we need it now? In this section the poet uses metaphorical language to show two meanings. Firstly that there is so much that needs to be looked after in this developing world and we are losing this out of control by the line “things are piling up so fast”. We are all building up our possessions and it is becoming hard to see our needs and wants, but nevertheless we just keep on buying. On a more literal sense it means that we are damaging the environment by using more land as landfill sites to keep more rubbish which is unnecessary. Similarly, this quote shows that we have stooped so low that we are surviving through the waste so there is no point clearing up this waste.
(I suppose I have about half left but it’s difficult to tell) – These two lines are cleverly in parenthesis to stress that people live their lives as if they have got it in abundance but, truly, they have lost track of their own life cycle. It has been boxed off into brackets to suggest that people do not care about looking ahead and planning for the future which is a risk. The structure of the poem is like a form which is completed by the consumer and returned to the supplier. There is a lot of punctuation used which adds to the effect of a product form and also there is spontaneity to this poem through the mixed structure of the poem to resemble that life has no path that is followed and is without structure from the start.
The mock-jovial tone of the poem can also be seen in “I think we should take it for granted.” This symbolises the view of people currently and how they are reacting to life and the fact that they are wasting it without finding the true meaning of life. The poet presents his thoughts here in this tone because this appeals to the reader as it contradicts with what has been said before – about the problems of life and that we must respect what have been given with. It is also a comparison to a tangible product with which we take advantage of but we should not.
The line “We are the consumers and the last law makers” represents the view that since we are the customers of life it should be us to decide how we should rule our lives and not anyone else to judge on our actions. The poet here is getting across the message that even though there are the natural aspects of life and the environmental impacts, we still live our lives selfishly and we make our own destiny. The more philosophical approach by the poet, “It’s difficult to think of a purpose for it”, is a job to do for people in order to reflect the purpose and meaning for their life.
But the question of a ‘best buy’ I’d like to leave until I get the competitive product you said you’d send. These lines are very crucial in the message the poet wants to get across. The fact that these lines are present in the concluding lines of the poem means that we do not lose sight of getting the most out of our money until we die. The poet also states here that we are never satisfied with what we already have and we are on constant pursuit of something better. So the poet stresses that this is the biggest disadvantage in life that we are too money-conscious and that this is getting out of hand.
Overall this poem is a self-reflection on life and that there are numerous problems which make life not as appealing as it may sound. There is always money involved even in the discussion of life in “It was not economical”. The themes of life, disadvantages of life, report and philosophy are adapted to comment on the life’s actualities and that these add to the reason the poet has written this type of poem. He is clearly unhappy with how life is lived by other people in his experiences and his observations of people who cannot stop their habit of buying goods.