Materialism is defined by Webster's Dictionary as "a preference for material objects as opposed to spiritual or intellectual pursuits" (172). Life in 2002 is very materialistic. I am a part of a generation that has been focused on "what we have". Materialism is something that I have just realized is an issue for me. Into the Wild and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass opened my eyes to how complicated materialism makes life. After completing the novels, I visited with my mother as she has had a different experience in her lifetime. I also interviewed my wife as she has a different upbringing from myself. All of this information has provided for a new perspective for me on materialism.
My wife and I have become accustomed to purchasing or getting whatever we like. It is hard for me to imagine Chris McCandless giving all of his money away and living on hardly anything. He made the choice to "just get by." Living off the land is something McCandless strongly promoted. In his letter to Franz, McCandless encouraged Franz to "do it economy style" (58). We have always given to charities and to the Church, but we have also made sure we have more than the necessities. McCandless's choices showed me that maybe we could live with a little less. I cannot see my family going to the point of giving up our home, our cars, and many of our things. I am able to see us looking more carefully as our purchases and how much "stuff" we really need.
Federick Douglass never had a choice when he was a slave. Money and materialism were the least of his concerns. When he did make money, Douglass had to pay his master a sizeable portion of the money. He is "lay up a little money each week" (96). I, again, cannot imagine having to scrape by just to pay expenses. I have worked since I was fourteen to ensure I had money to buy the things I wanted.
When Douglass became a free man, he found "the most astonishing as well as the most interesting thing...was the condition of the colored people...living in finer houses, and evidently enjoying more of the comforts of life, more than the average slaveholder in Maryland" (102-103). I think made materialism a strong reality to him. He could hardly believe how the people lived. This experience has happened to me when I visited friends in a large city. I thought I spent money on many unnecessary items, such as expensive decor. But the amount some spend on simple items is amazing and helps me feel a little better about our habits.
Although my parents did not have much money, I am significantly younger than my six brothers and sisters. They made sure I had what I wanted when I was younger. One time I overheard someone say we were poor. I was puzzled. My mother had to explain to me that they did not have a lot. "We are rich in love," she said to me that day. She has repeated those words many times and actually did...