The Invasion of Consumerism into the lives of a Post-Modern Family
Consumerism is taking place everywhere. Whether we like it or not, it has come
to invade our everyday modern lives. Steven Miles, a lecturer in sociology at the
University of Plymouth says “How we consume, why we consume, and the parameters
laid down for us within which we consume have become increasingly significant
influences on how we construct our everyday lives” (1). Consumerism has even gotten to
the point of affecting the way we go about living and controlling our personal and social
lives (Miles 5). Wherever we go and whatever we do, consumerism is praised as the
answer to all of our problems, an escape from some of the harsh realities of our lives.
Don DeLillo’s White Noise depicts the different aspects of consumerism and the
effects it has post-modern family that it invades. That specific family is the Gladney’s
from Blacksmith. For the Gladney family, Jack, Babette, Heinrich, Steffie, Denise, and
Wilder, consumerism is a way of life. It is something they are always taking part in, even
if it is unconsciously. Consumerism is incorporated in with virtually every activity the
family takes part in, whether it be eating out, spending a day together at the shopping
mall, or making a quick stop at the supermarket.
Jack Gladney is a patron of supermarkets and shopping malls (McInerney 36).
Jack alone, but more frequently with the company of one or more family members,
makes trips to the supermarket. The supermarket has come to be a major point of
intersection in today’s culture (Conroy 97). Among the busy and bustling crowds of
people, Jack often runs into acquaintances, most commonly a colleague from The
College on The Hill, Murray Jay Siskind:
The two girls and Babette, Wilder and I went to the
supermarket. Minutes after we entered, we ran into
Murray. This was the fourth or fifth time I’d seen him
in the supermarket, which was roughly the number of
times I’d seen him on campus. (35)
Even Jack’s daughter, Denise, runs into a group of friends during one shopping trip.
They all gather together to look at books and talk. Jack also has many significant
conversations with Murray while casually strolling up and down the aisles of the
supermarket. On one such occasion, Murray tells Jack how happy he is to be “in
Blacksmith, in the supermarket, in the rooming house, on the Hill” (36). He continues to
say “I feel I am learning important things every day. Death, disease, afterlife, outerspace.
It’s all much clearer here.
I can think and see” (36). With Murray expressing his feelings
to Jack, it is almost as if these encounters at the supermarket are replacing customary
Aside from being a meeting grounds, the supermarket is filled with many
consumer goods conveniently in bulk. Jack describes this in one of his many trips to the
There were six kinds of apples, there were exotic melons in
several pastels. Everything seemed to be in season,
This kind of abundance of goods is seen in just about everywhere. Ten years ago, most
supermarkets stocked about nine thousand items and now today’s stores carry over 24
thousand (Wolkormir). Most of these items come from a can or box and can be cooked
in the microwave or require no cooking at all.
This explains why the number of hours
parents spend cooking is going down at an increasingly rapid rate and why McDonald’s
so proudly displays outside their restaurants, “Over 1 Billion Served.”
Fast food restaurants play a big role in today’s growing consumerism. Americans
enjoy more restaurant prepared food than ever before. Carrie Reynolds, a fast food
restaurant consultant says, “we eat out today more because it fits our high-speed,
consumer-mad lifestyles”(qtd. in Silver 42). Almost half of every dollar spent in 1999
was spent eating out, and that figure is expected to up 53% by 2010 (Silver 40).
Gladney’s are seen eating restaurant prepared food frequently, whether it be Chinese
take-out night or dinner in a car outside of a commercial strip of fast food restaurants.
This is common for families, especially because it is convenient for the parents busy
schedules. Fast food may be convenient and seems great at the time, but in the long run,
can eventually kill. One in five children between the ages of six and seventeen is
overweight and if current trends continue, nearly half of today’s .