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i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

Death of a Consumer

April 06, 2005

It was interesting to read about the evolution of technology as it relates to Arthur Miller's play "Death of a Salesman." This week for Intro to Lit we read an excerpt from Dr. Jerz's book "Technology in American Drama, 1920-1950."

I didn't know what the word "Ibsenian" referred to but I googled it: Henrik Ibsen was a Norwegian playwright in the 1800s who wrote about crisis in the middle class. A couple sites compared his plays to those of Shakespeare's due to the long-standing relevance of his works. Cool.

It was also cool to see where today's consumer-driven culture got it's started. Before the late 20's, consumer items were pushed based on a functional, utilitarian approach. After the cherry red Chevy's and pretty fountain pens started flooded the market, thereby creating "the American preference for useful art" as well as even dictating consumer tastes. Dr. Jerz writes, "That the public would select a particular consumer item because it was more visually appealing than another presupposes the notion that mechanical goods could be aesthetic as well as utilitarian objects."

Another passage caught my attention:

"Even if the [Parker fountain] pens were sold at a relatively low profit rate, they created a constant need for a supply of ink."

You know what this made me think of? Ink-jet printers! Those suckers make me mad! You shop around, find a deal on a printer for somewhere from $50-80 bucks which usually comes with a starter supply of ink. And you think "Sweet deal!" Then, my friends, you run out of a ink.

And your steal of a printer turns into not such a hot deal afterall when you realize that your standard black ink is going to set you back a good $30 and the color ink is going to cost you more than that.

It has almost gotten to the point that it's more economically sound to wait for a sale on a whole new printer than it is to buy a new ink cartridge. I went through three ink jet printers a few years back until I finally realized that the expensive ink was the whole point of cheap printers and scrimped and saved until I could afford a laser printer.

That was, what, two years ago now? I've bought toner for the thing one time at $70 and, believe me, I print pages and pages of stuff... I bet that $200 investment has paid for itself twice over.

"Pressured by the need to find a large consumer market (made up of regular, repeat customers), manufacturers gradually trained the public to accept the modern consumer lifestyle that informs Death of a Saleman."

And here we are.

Great.

Moira at 10:02 AM :: Comments (0) :: ::
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