Learning from Junk
Who knew a person could learn so much from junk? Wallace Stegner's "The Town Dump" and Lars Eighner's "On Dumpster Diving" are two good examples of lessons learned from garbage. They both focus on junk, but they are very different stories and teach different lessons.
"The Town Dump" is a written account of Wallace Stegner's fond childhood memories visiting the dump near his hometown. He shows through his essay that he learned a lot from the dump. He and his friends considered the dump as an "archaeological site" or history museum of the town. It held objects that could tell the children a lot about the owners, the people who lived in the town, and even about their own lives. He found that he could learn so much just by sifting through the junk. Stegner stated, "For a community may be as well judged by what it throws away, what is has to throw away, and what it chooses to, as by any other evidence."
"On Dumpster Diving" also has lessons to be shared. Eighner's essay is more "how to" as opposed to Stegner's memoir. In the essay he coaches the reader on how to survive by living out of dumpsters. He moves smoothly through a variety of topics such as what is safe to eat and drink, the stages a person goes experiences when "scavenging," different types of "dumpster divers," and personal past experiences. From these things, Eighner claims to have learned two lessons: one being that you should only take what you need and nothing else. In other words, if it is not useful, it has no value. The second lesson is the idea of materialism and how he finds that memories and sentiments last longer than objects. This lesson is differs greatly compared to "The Town Dump" because Stegner treasures the items found in the dump, while Eighner would have left the junk and remembered their significance.
Eighner takes a very matter-of-fact approach to his essay. He writes very intelligently as if he had been well educated at one point in time. It is very well