The Banality of Gilding

“The Banality of Gilding: Innocuous Materiality and Transatlantic Consumption in the Gilded Age,” “Thorstein Veblen: Conspicuous Consumption, 1902,” and “America’s Gilded Age” and then answer the discussion question that follows:

During the Victorian Age, the upper class became very wealthy in part by exploiting the lower classes. For America to become a great and wealthy nation, was the exuberance and disparity of the Victorian age justified? Explain why.

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Gilded Age consumption and broader Victorian materialism certainly included ostentatious symbols of excess and some deluded aspirations to wealth, but focusing on these factors alone risks ignoring the rich meanings of the mass-produced things crowding transatlantic households. It is easy enough to ignore such material goods since many of the material forms fueled by prosperity were at least superficially mundane. Beecher himself argued that an array of rather prosaic goods should be in all homes, intoning that “The laborer ought to be ashamed of himself … who in 20 years does not own the ground on which his house stands and … who has not in that