This work examines rhetoric that uses garbage and waste as a metaphor for people. This rhetoric took its modern form during the Industrial Revolution when urban reformers, religious leaders and other members of the middle classes garbagized the urban poor and working classes as a strategy of identity construction and social control. The American cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 70s brought challenges to this rhetoric. With heightened awareness about the environment as well as social injustice, people began to look at garbage as a source of insight into culture. Many North American novels published 1955-1995 use garbage as a central image and metaphor. Six novels published after 1970, Morrison's The Bluest Eye, Laurence's The Diviners, Silko's Ceremony, Robinson's Housekeeping, Smiley's A Thousand Acres, Allison's Bastard out of Carolina, all include characters that are clear about how garbagization works as a dominant narrative in society. The characters write counter-narratives by which they not only escape garbagization but narrate an entirely other way of being.