Materialism in American Culture Essay Example


The buying of physical objects is what gives most Americans a rush of adrenaline and satisfaction. Materialism is the belief held by a handful of these people and involves putting material items over spiritual values. They may choose to go shopping for new clothes, go look at fancy houses, or simply buy more things that they do not need over spending time with those close to them. The feelings released from the purchasing and indulging in these items is what drives people to repeat the process. It is an action commonly seen in American society and is typically encouraged through various areas of influence. The American public contains an obsession with materialism because of the motivation from literature, societal norms, and the media. 

In The Great Gatsby, Tom and Daisy’s relationship revolves around the idea of materialism. Tom and Daisy gave more attention to their material belongings and wealth, rather than the toxic state of their relationship. In Source E it states that “...they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness...”. The two were full of money and with that money they would go on luxurious vacations, buy extravagant items, or live in grand houses. They owned so much, believing that the more they purchase, the happier they would become. However, their desolate states never improved and they were left alone in their grand house, with their extravagant items, and the tension that remained. Additionally, Tom and Daisy had become so caught up in their possessions, that they “... let other people clean up the mess that they had made.” (Source E). They lost sight of how important their relationship was and instead focused solely on their careless spending. The two characters went through the story, ignoring their real-life problems, even when one was aware of the fact that the other was cheating. Their belongings and wealth had hid reality from them, and so they treasured their items over their emotional values. 

The societal norms in America both normalize materialism and encourage the excessive buying of items. The American Dream can be interpreted as owning the largest house on the block and indulging in luxurious items. In Source F, however, it can be seen that most Americans believe that the American Dream is actually associated with hard work, going against the materialistic beliefs some hold with this idea. Yet, there are studies that continue to support the ongoing theme of materialism in the United States. Americans tend to splurge on items rather than spending quality time with those close to them because it gives them a greater sense of satisfaction and relief. For example, a study of Commerce Department data showed that U.S. consumers spent an annual $1.2 trillion on unnecessary items such as pleasure boats, jewelry, booze, gambling and candy (Source B). The percentage of unnecessary items Americans buy every year compared to those actually needed has drastically risen since the last century and this large number displays the rapidly growing practice of materialism and how it is becoming extremely common without people even realizing what they are doing. “They experience a rush of excitement and euphoria from making the purchase” (Source A). Materialistic followers will usually choose shopping as their adrenaline producer, receiving more of a rush from the actual buying rather than the owning of the item. This outlet gives them a great sense of satisfaction because in American society, it is normal to be constantly spending money of unnecessary items and not thinking of the consequences. Thus, materialism is becoming vastly normalized in American society and it can be seen everywhere around us. Those who participate in the indulging of unnecessary items will encourage others to do the same and it has come to occupy its place in American societal norms. 

The American media pushes materialism onto people by targeting young, susceptible groups. Social media leads children from a young age to have a greater need for material items.“However the excessive exposure to the external environment hampers the value system of children, making them prone towards materialistic possessions” (Source D). The media is the one outlet where marketers could successfully convince young audiences that they need to own a certain product. The more commercials the child views, the more materialistic they become as their perception of what they do and do not need becomes altered. This manipulative way of marketing sticks with the child for the rest of their life, molding them into a materialistic American. “Although the impact of media decreases with age, media endorsed materialism remains with children their whole life” (Source D). By targeting a young audience, marketers are able to easily influence their consumers. The children’s brains are still developing and so, their attention can be entirely directed to focus on the advertised items. They are at the age where they will take in all of the information given to them and keep it for years after, leaving them as an easy target for marketers and the media to encourage the attachment to material items. As they grow, their choices and actions revolve around the materialism that was pushed onto them early on. 

Materialism is a popular obsession within the American public. It could be found within literature, where the rich seem to be drowning in their possessions, and it has been normalized in our societal norms, where no one would bat an eye at someone wasting their money on unnecessary trinkets. Even from a considerably young age, children are targeted by marketers and influenced to depend on the physical items seen in advertisements. Together, these ways of increasing the commonality of materialism allows American society to grow in its consumerism. Materialism, even with all of its faults, is what has driven American society forward for years.

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