Fallacious Woman: an Analysis of Max Shulman's Love Is a Fallacy

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Fallacious Woman:
An Analysis of Max Shulman’s Love is a Fallacy
Robert de la Rosa
South Texas College
Ms. Laura Steinert
English 1302.W06
October 21, 2008

Fallacious Woman:
An Analysis of Max Shulman’s Love is a Fallacy
Reading is a favorite past time of many people in the world. It has the power to transport the reader to other places and times that he might never be able to see. Reading can even take the reader to places that do not exist, or places that once did but will never again. For readers who are short on time but would love to explore these new worlds, there is a genre of literature dedicated to fast and fun reading called short stories. Short stories are usually works full of fun and entertaining characters and littered aplenty with literary devices and interesting twists. A favorite of such short stories is Max Shulman’s Love is a Fallacy. Love is a Fallacy is a fun short story where the author teaches basic principles of fallacies in an entertaining way.

Shulman’s Love is a Fallacy is about a young man attending the University of Minnesota in the early 1950’s. The main character, who is narrating the story, is a self described “keen, calculating, perspicacious, acute, and astute” individual whose goal during this story is to obtain, from his friend Petey Burch, a girl by the name of Polly Epsy. Petey is an illogical young man who desperately wants a raccoon coat, and he makes a deal with the narrator to give him Polly for a coat – because anybody who is anybody at the time has a raccoon coat. Polly is a beautiful girl whom the main character is infatuated with, as he sees her as a girl that would be fitting for the man he was to become. He believes that when he is a lawyer, he needs to have a beautiful woman as his wife just as he sees all good lawyers do. The only drawback to his plan was that Polly Epsy did not seem to be the brightest girl on campus – much to the contrary; she seems to be quite airheaded. But being the keen and calculating fellow he is, the narrator will educate this beautiful woman and make her more suitable for him. The narrator proceeds to meet with Polly and teaches her about logic and fallacies, a study which proves to be his downfall. After her lessons, he begins to tell her of his want of her companionship, and she dismisses all of his pleas as fallacious arguments and tells him she is going steady with Petey Burch – because he has a raccoon coat!

In the beginning of Love is a Fallacy, Shulman creates the character of the narrator as a egocentric young fellow who thinks quite highly of himself. The narrator seems to be able to disregard the feelings of others in favor of his own ambitions, as shown in the text, “My brain, that precision instrument, slipped into high gear. ‘Anything?’ I asked, looking at him narrowly.” This sentence was where the narrator got the idea of trading Petey, who would do anything for a raccoon coat, a coat for Petey’s girl (who really had no “kind of formal arrangement with her”). Shulman created the picture of the narrator looking at Petey narrowly so that the reader would imagine an unscrupulous man about take advantage of someone’s weakness in order to emphasis the self-centeredness of the character. After the Narrator retrieves a raccoon coat from his father’s house, he convinces Petey to accept the coat for Polly. Shulman illustrates the inner struggle of Petey while he battles between his want of a raccoon coat to keep up with the latest fad and the thought of giving up the girl he likes for it by writing some dialogue between the narrator and Petey. Petey at first denies the raccoon coat, but then rationalizes his decision to accept the trade by saying it was not as if he and Polly were in love. This decision is helped along by the narrator while he goads him into trying on the coat and reiterating Petey’s rationalizing self-talk. This dialogue helps...
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