When we had our discussion last week based off the section in Dominion where Libbie decorates her home, Veronica said that she puts a lot of effort into decorating her home to reflect her personality and interests and that when she has people over, it feels somewhat like a performance. I absolutely agree with this and I thought this was very insightful and interesting because not only is playing hostess a performance, but also the inanimate house itself is expected to perform- to have comfortable places to sit, some hot coffee or other beverage to supply, and to have interesting objects to promote conversation are a few examples. But our homes are typically not only functional but also decorated in a unique manner. It’s interesting that we use our home decor not only to project a certain atmosphere but also as an extension of ourselves.
We pick and choose particular styles and objects that we feel represent ourselves. We pick out wall art and tchotchkes and even larger appliances not only because we find it pleasing to the eye, but because we also feel it says something about ourselves as a person. This focus on material goods as an extension of our personality is a process that can be incredibly enjoyable, satisfying and interesting, but it’s not a completely wholesome activity. How costly it may be notwithstanding, I think there can be a danger in going overboard and instead of being a tool to accentuate our personality, it instead becomes an effort to replace what we find lacking in our personality. This is a pretty common criticism of capitalism: we buy goods in the belief that they are going to make us appear smarter, sexier or generally happier with our lives, as advertising has suggested, only to discover that they often do not add any true value to our lives at all. People often use material goods to fill a void within themselves, and when one purchase fails to do so they try a different one, leading to a vicious cycle of buying and consuming with no significant internal value. Returning to Libbie in Dominion, her meticulous efforts do help her see the place as “home”, but she becomes so engrossed in order to combat both boredom and the absences of her husband. This seems innocent enough, but even as the house feels like home, these original problems continue throughout the narrative- particularly, Caleum’s Odysseus-like affair after the War, keeping him from home for a whole extra year instead of just the long days in the field.
I myself find this so interesting because I thoroughly enjoy decorating my home and carefully curating objects that I feel represent “me” and for the most part I find it harmless, but sometimes I can’t help but criticize the urge, worrying if my performance in trying to impress friends and family with my home is instead speaking to an internal deficiency that I am trying to fulfill.