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Marrying Absurd Commentary

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Tyler Nguyen

LA per. 3


Marrying Absurd Commentary

In the essay “Marrying Absurd,” the author Joan Didion portrays not only the absurdity of the marriage business in Las Vegas, but the corruption surrounding the wedding ceremony itself. The reader is led to witness the low-budget ceremonies on offer by the Las Vegas marriage business. The city makes a joke out of the sacredness of marriage and does so by taking something that seems to be cherished and respected by Didion and most Americans, and turning it into nothing more than an exercise in instant gratification. Didion uses irony, negative tone words, and the journalistic techniques of a reporter to make the point that the wedding chapels of Las Vegas are degrading the institution of marriage.

Didion begins with the declaration; “To be married in Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada, a bride must swear that she is eighteen or has parental permission and a bridegroom that he is twenty-one or has parental permission.” (Marrying Absurd, p. 79) Hasty brides and grooms avoid the hassle of premarital blood testing or waiting periods. Didion conveys her anxiety about the lack of necessity for getting married.

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en masse, but they’re people, not cattle. People expect more when they get married.” (M.A p. 80) This simple quote leads the reader to reconsider and maybe believe that this type of wedding ceremony is something outrageous. Rather than presenting the reader with her opinion about the insanity of instant marriage, Didion decides to give the reader a choice of approaching his or her own conclusion by presenting them with evidence in the form of quotes. This is one of the journalistic techniques that she uses to impress upon the reader her views of the Vegas wedding ceremonies and how they are demeaning the institution of marriage.

What starts out as Didion’s disapproval of instant marriages, and the empty impression of glitter surrounding them, rises into her sarcastic used of irony to criticize the marriage ceremonies in Vegas. The remarks made by the preacher unveil a layer of irony in his words. Mr. Brennan shortly states that people are “not cattle” and “expect more when they get married.” (M.A, p 80) But before that he proudly states that he got the wedding ceremony “down from five minutes to three minutes.” (M.A, p 80)

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M.A, p 82) to describe a drunk bride that she encountered when she was there doing research for her essay. With these words, Didion portrays a marriage that is neither dignified nor sacred compared to the traditional wedding of the time. She also uses negative tone words to describe the Vegas setting as a backdrop unsuitable for proper weddings. In describing the city’s scenery, she uses depressing or alarming words such as “moonscape,” “rattlesnake,” “mesquite,” “bizarre,” “venality,” “mobsters,” and “call girls.” By creating skepticism of the Vegas setting, she leads the reader to question the validity of the weddings performed there. The negative tone words help create feelings of doubt in the reader throughout her essay.

Joan Didion is an excellent and crafty writer because she successfully uses the literary tools of irony, negative tone words, and the journalistic techniques to persuade the reader. All three tools allow the readers to come up with their own independent conclusions. When readers feel they have drawn their own conclusion they are more persuaded than when the author tells them what to think. Didion artfully accomplishes this by indirectly giving evidence and carefully shaded facts rather than opinions to support her views.  

Word Count: 993

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