The Mezzanine

The Way to Enlightenment: Production and Consumption in Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine

Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine suspends time for both the protagonist and the reader, with the escalator serving as a symbol of the productive and consumptive postmodern society. Because of the escalator, the story's narrator and other contemporary office workers have more time to devote to their work and are thus more productive. And while some critics deplore the rate of production and consumption in society and call for a return to the humanist days, Baker's novel posits that the post-modern world actually encourages contemplation; he turns the notion of a hyper-productive, dehumanized postmodern world on its head.

Like Proust's madeleine, the escalator ride opens Howie's mind to numerous involuntary memories. When he approaches the escalator, his recollections begin:

It would have been less cumbersome, in the account I am

giving here of a specific lunch hour several years ago, to have

pretended that the bag thought had come to me complete and

"all at once" at the foot of the up escalator, but the truth was that

it was only the latest in a fairly long sequence of partially forgotten,

inarticulable experiences, finally now reaching a point that I paid

attention to it for the first time.

(Baker,...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 747 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4495 literature essays, 1451 sample college application essays, 183 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in