Thesis: More often than not, writers of the modern era are lured into toying and testing the mechanical framework of their writing to create the most impactful story possible. In writing Superman and Me, Sherman Alexie does just that and breaks new ground on utilizing third-person based narration not only to construct an extended metaphor, but also in achieving a near-perfect connection with his own story that the conscious reader is able to pick up on.
To this day, third person narration remains a powerful technique in the art of language that allows the author to place himself/herself within the plot of the actual story while keeping an intermediary position as narrator by avoiding the potential for bias that is commonly associated with first-person based narration. But how complex of a connection can the author truly construct using third-person? For Sherman Alexie, very deep. He initially offsets the foundation for his story by delving into details of his past and childhood years in the first-person to establish some form of trust between the audience and his authoritative position as narrator. In essence, the overarching message that one concludes from his piece as a whole falls something along the lines of how education has the power to “save lives.” In retrospect, when we pay careful attention to the flow of the essay, it becomes increasingly hinted that this isn’t necessarily the furthest extent of Alexie’s intended message. Considering the craftsmanship behind the repetitive style of writing and the level of emotion drawn by his tone and syntax from the start, it simply can’t be. His switch to third-person based narration is sudden and unexpected, throwing the reader off from the composure and flow of the essay. This is his way of signaling that the reader should pay close attention to his new narrative mode as it begins halfway through on page 17 with, “This might be an interesting story all by itself. A little Indian boy teaches himself to read at an early age and advances quickly…” Like the Superman comic that jump-started his path to success and like the Man of Steel himself, we know that Sherman Alexie becomes his own reincarnated version of Superman. As a grown and successful member of the contemporary society today, this is critical for Alexie as he looks back on his past because rather than it being just another profound success story, it serves as a testament not only for his readers or Indian children of his reservation today, but more importantly for himself. Literally, this piece is the heart and living legacy of everything he’s achieved and stands for. Yet, this parallelism between Alexie and Superman only remains half of it. As any serious Superman fan would know, Clack Kent is the fictional character that is Superman’s real identity in society. The creators of Superman with Marvel Studios insist that Mr. Clark goes about daily life in the fictional world of the Superman storyline without the public being aware of his true identity as Superman. This is shocking news because Superman is the only mainstream superhero that exists today who does not wear a mask, complex disguise, or quite anything besides a plain cape and lettered suit. His identity and physical appearance are fully exposed all the times. This is highly relevant to the Superman and Me piece because it has a direct correlation to Sherman Alexie and his representation as Superman in the story. As previously stated, on one hand he becomes Superman himself, “widely feared and ridiculed by Indians and non-Indians alike.” (pg. 17) On the other, he is exactly what he describes himself to be, a regular “…little Indian boy…” that “…grows into a man who often speaks of his childhood in the third-person, as if it will somehow dull the pain and make him sound more modest about his talents.” (pg. 17) Just as the Superman storyline goes, Alexie truly is a living testament to being a superhero but society today fails to realize that and instead chooses to ignore him as such and “…with theatrical precision.” (Pg. 18) In other words, not only does he set himself up to “become” Superman, but quite literally is able to incorporate the fictional Superman storyline and make it his own – a real one. All of this was achieved with simple yet elaborately thought out usage of third-person based narration giving us new light on the powers of writing and language . With Superman and Me, Sherman Alexie has masterfully demonstrated technique in narration mode but above all has used it to make a the entire Superman legacy as real as you and I.
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