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Sherman Alexie: Superman and Me

By thisnotdalena Dec 11, 2013 939 Words
In Sherman Alexie’s essay, Superman and Me, he uses repetition and extended metaphors to transition from a personal to social level as he illustrates his poor childhood, and how reading saves his and others lives.

The essay is introduced with the Superman comic books that taught Alexie how to read. He uses the repetition of “I cannot recall” to explain that he does not recall the exact details of what he read but the idea of reading. He then contrasts this by stating what he can remember – being “a Spokane Indian boy living with his family on the Spokane Indian Reservation.” This contrast is continued by emphasizing that his family was “poor by most standards” and that they lived on “irregular paychecks, hope, fear, and government surplus food. This creates more insight into Alexie’s childhood and situation. The comparison between the Superman comic books and Alexie’s family draws attention to his love for reading, although his family could barely afford books for him.

The following paragraph goes further into depth about how Alexie’s acquired his love for reading and how that affected the way he saw the world. He, again, uses repetition to illustrate the vast library of books he read, bought, and the amount that could be found all around his home. For instance, he read books such as “westerns, spy thrillers, murder mysteries … and anything else he could find.” This continues to develop his love for reading because it shows he would read all that he could just to read. Alexie also reveals this love through his family’s poor situation. “When he had extra money, he bought new novels.” This creates compassion and devotion because, although his family did not have money, they made sure their education and knowledge came first.

Following this Alexie explains how, based on reading, his devotion started to change the way he understood his surroundings. He began seeing paragraphs as “fences that held words” and that “they worked together for a common purpose.” He connected that to his own life. For example, he saw his “family’s house was a paragraph” different from the other houses surrounding his. The repetition of “paragraph” emphasizes that, with everything he saw, he could connect it to what he learned from reading. He then begins to make connections towards the Superman comic book. Although Alexie did not understand what he was reading, he managed to see the context of the comic book through “each panel, complete with picture, dialogue, and narrative.” Alexie repeats “Superman is breaking down the door” multiple times and follows this by “I am breaking down the door” to compare Superman to himself. This suggests that he saw himself in Superman and that he, too, could overcome his battles, such as the Indian stereotypes that label him.

The shift allows Alexie to elaborate on how the Native American’s view education and how he broke away from their views. He begins by stating that “a smart Indian is a dangerous person, widely feared and ridiculed by Indians and non-Indians alike” to signify that Alexie felt he was different from other Indians. He discusses the many stereotypes that were labeled to Indians, such as “struggling with basic reading” or “expecting to fail in the non-Indian world.” In this paragraph, he uses the pronoun “they” multiple times to separate himself from his other Indian classmates. He continues this repetition to categorize his other Indian classmates into one completely separate from himself. In comparison to Superman, Alexie did not want to be seen as one of the Indians and brought down by the low expectations the non-Indian world gave him but the peek of the pronoun “we” shows that Alexie was, nonetheless, still labeled as an Indian.

Alexie was stereotypes as an Indian, but he did not allow that to stop him. He fought, similar to Superman, for the chance to “break down” the barrier he was faced with. Much like that rest of his essay, he continues the use of repetition to emphasize the separation between himself and the other Indians. He uses “I” to show his separation into his own individuality. He states that “I refused to fail. I was smart. I was arrogant. I was lucky …” to criticize the other Indians but to show that he was able to rise above the expectations of the Non-Indian world.

Alexie’s love for books came from the need and necessity for it in his life, so it became surprising to him when he became a writer himself. He writes “novels, short stories, and poems” but that was something that Indians were ever taught. “Writing was something beyond Indians.” It was something not expected of them or certainly not something the Non-Indian world saw they were capable of doing. Alexie then discusses how, although he never had visiting teachers teach him how to write, he tries to “visit the schools as often as possible” to try and “save their lives” like Superman. He explains the two types of students he encounters: the ones willing to learn and the ones “who sit in the back rows and ignore him.” Although the second type fits into the Indian stereotype, Alexie refuses to let that define them. He pushes against their “locked doors” to show that he is like Superman and is devoted to not letting their stereotypes define them. He is “trying to save their lives.”

In conclusion, Alexie’s use of repetition and extended metaphors to show transition from a poor Indian boy to a Superman-like hero enables him to successfully emphasize the importance of reading and education in one’s life.

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