The Maine Lobster Festival Presents: Cramped Crustacean

April 9, 2012

How far is too far in satiating one’s hunger?  On the surface, it’s a basic enough requirement in sustaining life.  David Foster Wallace addresses the inquiry of unnecessary violence against sentient beings in his 2004 article “Consider the Lobster”.  Specifically, he addresses the Main Lobster Festival’s family-fun-food (three F’s) and the possibility of it being little more than barbaric.  The ordinary experience of attending one such ceremony is; arguably, very mundane.  Wallace begins by boring his audience to death for two pages or so about the theatrics behind the MLF itself.  Then he spirals away into a topic much more thought-provoking.

What makes this piece such a good read isn’t the author’s impressive knowledge on just what a lobster would be defined as or how it relates to the common spider in appearance and functionality.  When he’s able to get away the mechanics and speak about the big (or little, more accurately speaking) picture, his rhetoric is beyond intriguing.  Does a lobster able to process the obviously excruciating occurrence of being boiled alive?  This is the epitome of one’s morality being brought into question.  If they can, what kind of person is able to ignore that suffering for a meal that could easily be acquired in less inhumane matters.  A line that I find to be endlessly resonant is this:

A related set of concerns: Is the previous question irksomely PC or sentimental? What does “all right” even mean in this context? Is it all just a matter of individual choice?

He even pulls back to an aside in lieu of the question to say, who cares?  Does what’s considered wrong to one person even matter to another?  As the article unfolds, Wallace strains the capability of his intellect to search for these answers.  Even by the conclusion, he doesn’t give the readers his final opinion outright; and noticeably hops from one side of that line to the other all throughout the text.  For me, that’s the cake-taking attribute of “Consider the Lobster”.  Because that’s exactly what one does throughout the entire proverbial journey.  The information is there, the difference of popular opinions are there; but I as a reader was prompted to come up with my own verdict.




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