Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Laugh It Off

When Pat gave the definition of bildungsroman in class I thought, “Wow, why the hell is there a word for that.” My self automatically retorted, “Seriously? Why wouldn’t there be?” Self-identity and growth are even major themes of stories in which self-identity and growth are not major themes. That’s right.

Throughout Dress Your family in Corduroy and Denim, Sedaris approaches the awkward stages of self-searching and discovery in a way that many people do, through humor. Humor is a great way to deflect negative criticism. If you tell someone about an awkward, embarrassing, or foolish moment they’ll most likely stare at you, bewildered if you tell them about it with out any inkling of humor—or they’ll just laugh at you and you’ll simply be on the wrong end of a superiority complex.

Sedaris seems to be aware of this fact and the fact that we’ve all had embarrassing self-discovery-moments, and so the implication of his humor is that we are explicitly told, “It’s okay, laugh. We’ve all been here.” So, in effect, Sedaris makes us laugh at both his self-discovery and childhood mishaps, while we simultaneously make fun of our own.

Sedaris allows the reader to learn about an extraordinarily important matter (so important that when novels are written about it they have a specific name) and laugh at it. Truthfully, it is one of the oldest tricks in the book; being able to divert negative attention from something by laughing at its faults or absurdities (and, perhaps in this case, its universalities).

Sedaris makes the reader comfortable while he reads about things that are far from comforting. He does so through humor. This style of writing about self-discovery in a jocular tone is an extremely effective way to portray ideals important to the author without pressing them on the reader.

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