Nathan Ryan Reeves

The Paradox of Pampering

Wallace is a very interesting writer when it comes to his structure by giving a good timeline of events when he can and can sound super relatable to the reader if they have ever been in the cruise position. DFW has no problem keeping the attention of the reader by his casual and cohesive style of writing. It does not have 100% of the details, rather just the right amount of what he needs, and nothing sounds super filler. I envy his ability to play the image in my head without trying, for instance—

“When you turn back around your towel’s often gone and your deck chair has been refolded to its uniform 45-degree at-rest angle, and you have to readjust your chair all over again, and you have to readjust your chair all over again and go to the cart to get a fresh fluffy towel, of which there is admittedly not a short supply…”

This is the right amount of descriptive information, without giving the reader too much stimulus and things to think about. There are plenty of other examples since it happens seamlessly all over the rest of the article. His experience goes through the rest of the cruise ship, like the mystery of when and how your room gets cleaned so fast when you leave for a short period of time, or even exploring the idea of a “Paradox of Pampering”, and the feeling of being pampered on a cruise ship. I guess the line where this paradox was brought up can be interpreted in many different ways, but I like to see it as a passenger that is self-aware of the fact that they can do things themselves, while at the same time they don’t have a choice with whether or not they want the help. It is perfect how DFW wrote it—

“The Passenger’s Always Right versus Never Let a Passenger Carry His Own Bag”

here is this weird relationship where he would rather carry his own stuff and be self-sufficient but would run the risk of getting staff in trouble, which is a prime example of the paradox of pampering.

The idea of this paradox and the self-aware real-life relationship between the passengers and the crew members are not really discussed until the end where Wallace made his transition in tone for the reader. The also self-aware idea of being American and having this greedy capitalist idea in the background of the passengers’ mind while they have their “escape” from reality and purpose.


“But, of course, part of the overall despair of this Luxury Cruise is that whatever I do I cannot escape my own essential and newly unpleasant Americanness. Whether up here or down there, I am an American tourist and am thus ex officio large, fleshy, red, loud, coarse, condescending, self-absorbed, spoiled, appearance-conscious, greedy, ashamed, and despairing…I’m newly and unpleasantly conscious of being an American, the same way I’m always suddenly conscious of being white every time I’m around a lot of non-white people.”


This is a prime example of Wallace’s style of writing and what makes it so great, there’s this underlying theme in the background brewing in the back of his head while he’s having a good time, and once he comes back to reality, he brings in the idea of the paradox of pampering (or rather the paradox of luxury). This luxury is at the benefit of the passengers’ experience, while there is a problem to the whole system under the surface. And while this isn’t discussed until the end as much, I enjoyed that it was hinted at through the whole work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.