Superman and Me
In the short autobiographical story “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me,” an Indian man, Sherman Alexie, tells of his journey learning how to read. Sherman Alexie grew up on an Indian reservation in eastern Washington state. Although his family was considered very poor in American society, on the reservation he was from a middle class family. This shows how tough life on the reservation was, and how much poverty there was. He does not remember any of how he learned how to read, but knows that he was three years old. His father had a passion for reading, and would buy cheap books from pawnshops, the Salvation Army, and other cheap stores. It rubbed off on Alexie, who would start “reading” the books that his father owned. He learns about paragraphs and then begins to link everything in the world to them. Although he grows up on a Spokane Indian reservation and is pressured to ignore school and learning, he still strives to succeed, to save his own life. Many of his fellow classmates flunk out and try to force him to do the same. His classmates are dull and monosyllabic in class, while they are very lively and great storytellers once home. Sherman Alexie tells of how he kept reading no matter where he was, and his only goal, his only motivation, was to save his life. In concluding this story, Alexie admits that he is surprised he became a writer. He had never learned about writing novels or poetry, but merely read. When he goes back to his reservation, he sees many children trying to be like him, trying to save their own lives, but also many of the same children ignoring learning.
Throughout the story, Alexie talks about how he strived to succeed. Near the end of the essay, he says that by doing so, “I was trying to save my life” (Alexie 50). This is a very powerful quote, and provides great visualization for the reader. The author could have used alternative choices, such as “succeeding helped me get out of poverty” or “paying attention helped to broaden my education,” but it would not have provided the same impact as Alexie did by saying that he saved his life. When someone reads about saving a life, they immediately think like the movies where a superhero with superhuman powers, such as Superman, saves the life of an average citizen. By using this quote, Alexie can be compared to Superman.
In all Superman comics, television shows or movies, Superman saves the life of at least 1 other person. Just like Superman, Alexie saves the life of other people as well. In the final sentence of the essay, Sherman Alexie says, “I am trying to save our lives” (Alexie 50). This line, just like the one mentioned earlier, has great visualization along with it. The image of someone saving another persons life is great. He does not only worry about himself, but he sees the situation of the other Indian children and immediately tries to help. In using this line, Alexie compares himself to Superman again, instilling awe in the minds of the reader. He is also using repetition, as he had previously mentioned saving lives twice before, whether it was Alexie saving his own life, or the children saving their own lives. By using repetition, the reader can note that what he is saying is very important. An author would not just repeat a line so powerful without trying to prove a point with it. The repetition is another key element in this story.
By using powerful sentences, visualization and repetition, Sherman Alexie creates a very vivid, well-written story. The author’s use of powerful statements and visualization create a superhero-like atmosphere. Both are very effective, and add much emotion to Alexie’s story. His use of repetition then establishes how important the statement of saving a life truly is. In my own writing, I have and will continue to use repetition. I will also try to provide visualization in my writing. Finally, although it is hard, I will look for opportunities to use statements that add much more emotion and power to my writing. In reading the story “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me,” I have learned much more about what to put in my own papers, and how.