Consumerism in America seems to have taken on an entirely new hue as we near the twenty-first century, evidenced by recent phenomena such as Wrestlemania and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While many people think this kind of rampant consumer culture is tolerable at best, it is, at least, an expression of the masses rather than the elite. Or is it? It could be argued that the various phenomena of consumerism are not products generated through the demands of the common people, but rather that they are conceived and controlled by the privileged who, ironically, foster the idea that the products were created because of consumer demand. The issues of power and influence in consumer culture, however current they may seem, do not have their origins in this century. The philosophizing Theodore Dreiser, for example, has much to say in Sister Carrie (1900) about the budding fashion industry of the late nineteenth century, which served much the same purpose that Wrestlemania does today in that they both provide an opportunity for expression to a sector of society yet untapped by other forms of consumer culture.
©1991 by the Board of Student Publications, University of Northern Iowa
"Dreiser's Consumer Culture: Fashion and Material Reality in Sister Carrie,"
Draftings In: Vol. 6:
3, Article 8.
Available at: https://scholarworks.uni.edu/draftings/vol6/iss3/8