The Literary Devices Used in Us and Them by David Sedaris

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How does television become part of our life? The televisions had changed from the symbol of high class to the most common device in our life because of the rapid growth of technology. In the article “Us and Them”, the author Sedaris highlights his attitude about television and the reasons why television is such significant to him by using irony and insinuation bombastically. He compares the enthusiasm of his family to television to the unconcern of the Tomkeys about television. Sedaris uses comparison and contrast to show the in-grouper and out-grouper of society, which highlights the negative effects of television on people’s behaviors and values profoundly. In this analysis, the article would be separated into six parts and be analyzed to understand the metaphors and the hidden messages in the essay.

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Sedaris uses logos which gives a whole picture of his background and the potential reasons to start everything. The readers could stand in Sedaris’ shoes while understanding his logic as an eight-year-old boy. Sedaris does not put his statement on his description. Instead, what he only does is to provide the situation to the readers directly so that the readers could understand the point themselves but not being told. Additionally, Sedaris uses pathos to demonstrate his connections to readers. For example, Sedaris mentions that ‘To spare their feelings, she wanted them to believe that we always kept a bucket of candy lying around the house’ when his mother wants him and his sisters to get their candy to give to the Tomkeys when they come over to Sedaris house for trick-or-treating (852). If we are using the thinking style of a third-grader, it would be categorized as a sense of humor more than sarcasm.

We know that Sedaris is obsessed with television, and he tells the importance of his experience at school. He uses the example of cutting of his concern to a character on a lunch box, and explains, ‘I tried to think of him as just a drawing, but it was impossible to separate him from his celebrity’ (851). This attempt revels his irreplaceable relationship to the television. Sedaris is doing this for a purpose which he wants the readers could have a brief idea that they are exactly those people who could not live without television.

Moreover, there is another story of Sedaris in the classroom to show his incomprehension about how the Tomkeys think about television in the following paragraph. Sedaris expresses the regret of the Tomkeys not watching television by depicting the scene when he points out ‘our teacher flailed her arms, saying, ‘Warning, Will. Danger, danger.’ … and we laughed, knowing she was imitating the robot in a weekly show … The Tomkeys, though, would have thought she was having a heart attack’ (851). This is also a moment when Sedaris wants to observe the Tomkeys. This part does not only indicate how much does Sedaris value television but also reflects the desolateness of Sedaris and his lack of social interaction. On the other hand, this symbolizes those people who are not open-minded.

Besides, Sedaris insists that the Tomkeys is not on the track by choosing not to watch television. He mentions that ‘the family must somehow compensate for their loss’ (850). He thinks that the reasons that cause ‘their loss’ are ‘ignorant’ and ‘alone’ which are telling the situation of Sedaris but not the Tomkeys (850). As we mentioned, Sedaris does not willing to have interacted with others. When he feels pity for the kids from the Tomkeys, he never goes to communicate with them. It shows that his addiction to television makes his ‘loss’, and his ‘ignorant’ forms his ego (850).

Furthermore, we can know that Sedaris is greedy at some points. When Sedaris goes trick-and treat with his sisters, and he found that the Tomkeys leave a sign in the front porch says that ‘DON’T BE GREEDY’ (852). It mirrors the positive attitude and values that Tomkeys have. On contrast, Sedaris has his candy bag marked that ‘MY CANDY. KEEP OUT’ (853). It presents the selfishness of Sedaris indirectly. Especially when Sedaris eats all candies from Halloween even he knows that he would suffer from allergy. He explains that ‘and while it hurt to destroy [the candies], it would have hurt even more to give them away’ (854). While Sedaris is representing the people that addicted to television, his actions tell the readers that selfishness and loneliness are the personalities that people would earn through watching television. The pain for Sedaris giving up candies is similar to the loss that Sedaris thinks not watching television. He is taking the consequences himself but his arrogance and ignorance make him believe that he is right. The purpose of the comparison is to highlight the greedy and isolation of Sedaris ironically.

In the last paragraph, Sedaris states his argument which the television makes people living out of reality. It promotes unhealthy values and provides uncritical views to the teenage audience like Sedaris. Those lead to the teenagers to pay their attention to their imagination but not the truth. They are influenced by television to become unknown about the micro-cultures that have various beliefs. They are overconfident of their theory and never step out of the door. When Sedaris compares himself as a pig when responding to his mother’s advice. At that time, he temporarily realizes his selfishness. Nevertheless, the business commercial ‘shipping Pepsi through a straw’ establishes a picture for the readers that what exactly causes the ignorance and greedy of Sedaris (Sedaris 855). The fancy information that the television gives out would lock audiences’ minds into shiny boxes.

Overall, Sedaris applies in-person experience to insinuate the personality and values of those ‘television addicts’. He does not tend to tell everything to the readers immediately. Comparison and metaphors are often used in the article to inspire the readers as well as leaves some space for the readers to fill in the blanks. This is a double-edged sword that readers may have a hard time incode the messages while readers are not restricted. Despite all this, Sedaris does an excellent job reflecting the self-approbation and stuffiness by metaphors and irony.

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