A Literary Analysis of on Dumpster Diving by Lars Eighner

Last Updated: 20 Apr 2023
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In "On Dumpster Diving" by Lars Eighner, the author speaks about how he has overcome his personal struggles through the art of dumpster diving. The author began dumpster diving a year before he became homeless. He put all of his income toward his rent and all of his necessities constantly came from the dumpster. He then goes on to share what he has learned from being a human scavenger. He learned to only get what he needs and not to grab everything he sees because in the end all those things he didn't need will go to waste. Eighner has two different audiences for this narrative. One being those individuals who might be fascinated with the idea of dumpster diving, and the other might be those individuals who are very wasteful.

Dumpster diving is more beneficial than the average American would believe, because so many people are wasting perfectly good necessities, knowing how and where to get more. The dumpster diver uses this to his advantage and obtains the skills and knowledge to get what he needs to survive. The skills that Eighner has is something we all need. Americans are so quick to waste their clothes, their food, and other utilities without thinking twice.

Dumpster divers, who use their good judgment, are much less likely to consume bad or spoiled food. They avoid it by asking themselves one simple question, "Why was this discarded?" (Eighner 359) Eighner suggests that canned foods, dried foods such as crackers, cookies, cereal, chips and pasta are usually safe to eat, once they are free from visible contaminates. Raw fruits and vegetables are usually safe, except for the rotten ones. Confectionery, like chocolate and other hard candies are also safe. Unfortunately foods such as poultry, pork, egg-based foods and fish, tend to spoil quickly.

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A place often checked was college grounds. College students are known to be very wasteful, which worked to Eighner's advantage. The author is obviously showing that college students are very inconsiderate, and they take for granted the fact that they can throw out food and just get more with mommy and daddy's money. Often times the students will throw their food out around breaks because they don't think it'll last before they return (Eighner 361). Eighner suggests various places to scavenge.

Another place he began scavenging by pulling pizzas out of the Dumpster. He knew that when the pizza shop closed they would have a lot of extra to throw away. This method was very effective because it not only gave him dependable food but also shows that pizza shops are very wasteful. The pizza was either thrown away because it was a prank order or the customer wasn't satisfied. My family is in the food business and I know first-hand how easily we throw out food. At the end of the day we end up with leftover food that we didn't sell. Some of it we try to preserve by freezing it but most of it won't be any good in the morning so we are forced to throw it out. It's a waste of food and money.

Life as a dumpster diver sounds like an awarding job with great benefits, but only if you do it right. Eighner notices different stages in a dumpster diver as he observes others. In the first stage he describes the "disgust and self-loathing" of a "new scavenger," adding that even hunger cannot make one forget "the stigma of eating garbage" (362). The second phase of scavenging occurs when a homeless person finds "perfectly good stuff" in a Dumpster; a pair of shoes, a pocket calculator, and even "pristine ice cream" can help people overcome their shame about taking trash and start looking forward to serendipitous discoveries. This stage develops into an obsession with having things (362).

All scavengers come to the point of trying to acquire everything they find in the garbage, but E claims that the process of becoming a successful scavenger is complete only when Dumpster divers "realize that they must restrict themselves to items of relatively immediate utility" (363). I know myself personally and there are plenty things that I've wasted without thinking twice. I knew I could always go back to the store and buy more clothes. I like to stay in season with my clothes and if something isn't popular anymore I tend to throw it out. I've started to get better by donating the clothes or handing it down to my little sister.

As a dumpster diver becomes more advanced, he/she begin to find peoples personal belongings. A dumpster is somehow less personal; the author found a lot of things that were obviously not meant to come to light. Eighner says he tries not to draw conclusions about people who dump into the dumpsters frequently (365). Dumpsters often times contained bank statements, correspondence, and other documents, just as anyone might expect (Eighner 36) But then you might find things like pills and prescriptions for AIDS with the person's name on it and the doctor that prescribed it.

Despite all the sensitive stuff, other things you find tell a story. He talks about finding a small paper bag with unused condoms, partial tubes of flavored lubricant, a used compact of birth control pills, and a torn up picture of a man. From that you can probably conclude that she was through with her boyfriend and giving up sex all together. The author also says that he finds college papers but he's disappointed to see the kind of paper that merits an "A" (Eighner 366).

If you're going to dumpster dive, you have to do it right. The first lesson the author wants us to take away from this is to take what you can use and let the rest go by. Some things are not worth keeping so don't grab everything you see all at once just because it free. The second lesson is not to be wasteful, Americans waste so much every day because we know there's plenty more where that came from.

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A Literary Analysis of on Dumpster Diving by Lars Eighner. (2023, Apr 20). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/a-literary-analysis-of-on-dumpster-diving-by-lars-eighner/

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