Tuesday, February 23, 2010

“I’m still the one most likely to set your house on fire”

David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim demonstrates a spin on humor found within the family. Sedaris has this quality about him, where he is the silent observe. This characteristic makes me picture him at the scene just sitting back and soaking it all in, making me see him as a sort of scientist/ psychoanalyst. As he lives his life, he not only provides detailed events, but he adds this humor based reflection/analysis of the individuals. This quality really makes his humor rich and filled with quick jabs at different conventions, stereotypes within the family and even him.

On particular part of the novel that I found funny was his take on a sort of hierarchy within the family and the role of each member. For example, “If the oldest wasn’t who she was supposed to be, then what did it mean for the rest of us?” (144). By making light of his sister’s indecision and confusion within life, he proposes a more serious question. By evaluating the structure and function within the family, you can really begin to understand why you are the way you are. I never noticed this before entering college and meeting people with a very different attitude and personality then mine, but after meaning their family everything usually falls into place. Our families shape who we are and who we become.

These family based jokes and stereotypes are based around what we expect from each member. The norms and expectations within the family seem to be permanent and making specific events more humorous if happening to a family member who you would least expect it to happen to. For example, my older sister’s car got stolen this past year (she actually got it back a month later, but that’s beside the point). Out of my three sisters she has always been the one to take the most pride in her possessions, and would require me and my other sisters to ask for permission to even touch her dolls. So when she got a car for her 17th birthday we new her car would always be in the best condition. When hearing about my sister’s car being stolen my twin called me asap. I know this sounds mean, but we all found it ironic and hysterical (my dad didn’t think this was funny). So my point being, humor within the family is sort of exclusive and unique to each member.

The humor found within this concept, are the stereotypes and quarks within each family. For example when Sedaris mentions that “I might reinvent myself to strangers, but to this day, as far as my family is concerned, I’m still the one most likely to set your house on fire” (144) he gets down to the idea that families always have those funny stories that you probably have heard a million times, and even if it was only one time, that situation or event has marked you for the rest of your life. I think every family can relate to what Sedaris is getting at, that humor within the family is meant to be a little annoying, a little repetitive, and once the joke sticks, it sticks with you for the rest of your life (no matter what).

On a side note, I can even find humor in Sedaris’ choice of title, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Being that he even mentions denim Sedaris’ title exaggerates the theme that is weaved throughout the novel, the influence of conventions within the American culture and how they shape a family (and society). As discussed in my geology class, denim/jeans are a major characteristic of Americans. With the mere mention of jeans, Sedaris demonstrates the influence of American society within his family (as we see this theme within the mention of TV influences in the first half of the novel in the first chapter).

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