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Sherman Alexie's The Approximate Size of my Favourite Tumour - Essay Example

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Subject: English Literature (Classic and Modern) Date: Topic: Sherman Alexie's "The Approximate Size of my Favourite Tumour" Title: Humor Enthralls One and All Introduction Sherman Alexie is not the spokesperson for social or political issues…
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Sherman Alexies The Approximate Size of my Favourite Tumour
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English Literature ic and Modern) Topic: Sherman Alexie's "The Approximate Size of my Favourite Tumour" Title: Humor Enthralls One and All Introduction Sherman Alexie is not the spokesperson for social or political issues. He does not speak for the people of the Indian Community to which he belongs like a politician or a social reformer. Nevertheless, he has his own style to provide rare insights and noteworthy reflections on what it means to be an American Indian, in the modern world. He is creative and his figurative language is subject-related. In the story, “The Approximate Size of My Favourite Tumour”, the writer does not preach, but in his masterly style throws light on the cultural traits of the American Indians and airs views without being didactic. Humor, satire and irony are the literary elements used to illustrate the theme of family relationships in trying circumstances. The story is suffused with irony, satire and subtle humor, social as well as political. The author lets the readers know how satire and humor can be the literary tools to expose current social issues. His area of interests are not the Kings and Commanders but the daily lives of Native Americans and how the political and social issues that impact their lives. Through the capsules of satire and humor, he sends the important message to readers. Humor is the benevolent weapon with Jimmy to work through the pain. On many occasions, the truth behind the humor is awful and torments the hearts of the reader. He does it purposefully to enable the readers to do introspection and re-examine their societal values. Jimmy makes generous use of humor to keep cordial relationship with his wife in home-surroundings and to maintain social connections with the people around him. Terminal cancer is not an ordinary disease. Jimmy awaits certain death and yet he sports with its expected arrival. He sails through the relationship with his typical sense humor, and states, “Listen, if I stole 1,000 horses, I'd give you 501 of them.” (2) He converts his private suffering into enjoyment with verbal duals with his wife. Humor in this particular story initially breaks and then re-builds relationships. The other thematic issues elucidated in the story are the assault of the materialistic civilization on the traditional values, alcoholism and the lives that have no hope of survival. Jimmy Many Horses recounts the details of his relationship with his wife Norma, whom he meets for the first time at the Powwow Tavern. He has to grapple simultaneously with triple private tragedies, his problematic relationship with Norma, his alcohol addiction and the life-threatening disease, cancer. Human psychology works simultaneously in several directions. Norma is an extremely worried as she visualizes the shadows of the approaching death of her husband. Jimmy’s humorous repartees go beyond her tolerable limits. In such a grim situation, instead of being cynical, Jimmy explodes with humor and Norma is unable to cope up with this sort of disposition, suspends her relationship with him temporarily to revert back on the powwow circuit. But her internal turmoil does not allow her to remain separated from him for long and she returns to be with Jimmy in his last days. By now the contagious disease of Jimmy’s humor seems to have caught up with her and she justifies her return and remarks, "Because someone needs to help you die the right way," she said. "And we both know that dying ain't something you ever done before.” I had to agree with that." And maybe," she said, "because making fry bread and helping people die are the last two things Indians are good at." "Well," I said. "At least you're good at one of them." And we laughed. (6) Jimmy does not the miss the opportunity to celebrate this reunion with his typical remarks, “Still, you have to realize that laughter saved Norma and me from pain, too. Humor was an antiseptic that cleaned the deepest of personal wounds.” (4). Their reunion is one of the metamorphic points of the story and shows the depth of the delicate husband-wife relationship. An interesting example is given as to how rules and regulations for governance of the society are flouted by the controlling authorities. Jimmy and Norma are caught in a traffic rule violation situation. They had an argument with a policeman patrolling the highway and when the issue is settled, the policeman reverts to his job. Sherman Alexie describes that incident, “We watched him walk back to his cruiser, climb in, and drive off, breaking four or five laws as he flipped a U turn, left 166 rubber, crossed the center line, broke the speed limit, and ran through a stop sign without lights and siren. (5) The other social problem highlighted by the author is how dreaded diseases like cancer are rampart amongst the Indian Americans. During the X ray examination, the tumor is identified and on Jimmy’s getting the information, he puts his stamp of humor and says "Well, I told her the doctor showed me my X-rays and my favorite tumor was just about the size of a baseball, shaped like one, too. Even had stitch marks."(1) Is there an undercurrent of fear, whether the courage exhibited by Jimmy is a facade for his latent fear? Is he trying to shield of humor to resist the demon of death? Internally, in the corner of his mind, he does feel helpless to challenge the advancing death and observes tension-ridden Norma in a no-win situation. He realizes that his days are numbered and he cuts jokes to disengage himself from the thought of death and in that state of the mind gives confusing reactions on hearing the news of death of his mother-in-law which further complicates his relationship with Norma. She retorts, “Oh, Jimmy," she said, talking through tears. "I can't believe I just said thank you to that guy," I said. "What does that mean? Thank you that you told me that my mother-in-law is dead? "(4) Jimmy experiences pain both at the physical and psychic levels and even his jokes turn incoherent. Reunion of Norma in the end is a touching event in the life of the couple. She is back at home to witness the final innings of the endurance test of Jimmy. The author describes the poignant situation thus: “Honey," she said. "I've been gone so long and I missed you so much. But now I'm back. Where I belong."(6) The author gives the hint that the end of Jimmy is nearing and he is running the final lap of the race of his life. Conclusion In “The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor”, the writer does not preach, but in his masterly style throws light on the cultural traits of the American Indians and airs his views without being didactic. Humor, satire and irony are the literary elements used to illustrate the theme of family relationships in trying circumstances. Humor runs through the entire story and in all situations. The author has described the reality of the husband-wife and family relationships and how a dreaded disease impacts their lives. The strategy of satire and irony adopted by the author work well throughout the story and the level of detachment achieved by him for portraying the various characters and for the progression of the story is commendable. Works Cited Alexie, Sherman. Story: The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor.” Web:mritsmith.wikispaces.com/.../TheApproximateSizeOfMyFavoriteTum...File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View Read More
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