James McAvoy ♡
Last time before the break…
We discussed Wallace’s “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way.” We touched on some major themes Wallace constructs throughout the story, but the primary focus seemed to rely on Consumerism.
Our characters D.L., Tom Sternberg and D.L.’s husband Mark Nechtr all begin their journey with the goal of reaching the McDonalds reunion that the creator of the McDonald’s franchise, J.D. Steelritter has set up to bring every actor who has ever been in a McDonald’s commercial together once more. In class Professor Weir propositioned us with this thought; why did Wallace choose McDonald’s as the Reunion? Why choose a universal franchise that conjures images of mass consumerism that debilitates our nation’s health with food that does not deserve to be called food? For what reason does Wallace choose a commodity that is of poor quality to centralize the plot?
Steelritter, the marketing genius for McDonald’s, is an advertising man who resides in a rural town in Illinois. Wallace is poking fun at this idea of an adman living in Illinois. Most of us assume such jobs are located in metropolitan areas.( i.e. New York, or Los Angeles)
Of course Wallace incorporates John Barth’s “Lost in the Funhouse” into his story with the use of his character Professor Ambrose as a creative writing professor in a graduate program which D.L. and Mark are both students in. Wallace also uses flight attendant Magda, as another character we recognize from “Funhouse.” Wallace even opens the story with an epigraph from “Lost in the Funhouse,” “For whom is the Funhouse fun?” Steelritter mistakes his son’s repeated phrase “varoom” for “for whom” which leads Nechtr into a discussion about Professor Ambrose. Although Wallace interrupts the journey of our characters repeatedly with interjections of back stories of each character which run on for almost a page or more at some points, Wallace still wants to distance himself from Barth. On page 264 he jabs at Barth’s tactics when he says “as mentioned before— and if this were a piece of metafiction, which it’s NOT, the exact number of typeset lines between this reference and the pre nominate referent would be very probably mentioned, which would be a princely pain in the ass, not to mention cocky…” Wallace appears to think he has done a better job at exemplifying metafiction, yet “Funhouse” has significant inspiration in this story. The title “Westward the Course of Empire Takes it’s Way,” is also the title of a famous painting which represents “manifest destiny.” Was Wallace using McDonald’s in his story as the symbol of America’s manifest destiny?