Me Talk Pretty One Day
A Comparison of the Narratives in Salvation by Langston Hughes and Me Talk Pretty One Day
In “Salvation” by Langston Hughes, the young boy is at a church in a situation where all the elders of the church want all the young ones of the church to get saved during a revival. In “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, a middle-aged man is in France with the situation of wanting to learn French. Both narratives have people wanting the narrator to do something, but the narrator doesn’t immediately cooperate.
An example of such struggle in “Salvation” would be in paragraphs five and six when the boy still hasn’t gone down to get saved and just sits there with his friend. One example of struggle in “Me Talk Pretty One Day” would be the teacher’s horrible demeanor on page 343 where the teacher flat out tells the narrator “I hate you” or on page 344 where she stabs a student in the eye with a pencil. This creates a conflict of the narrator feeling belittled and like he could never understand it as shown on pages 343 and 344.
The conflict in the Sedaris article is a little different; the boy wants to physically see Jesus and not just take everybody’s word for it. Hughes makes this clear by saying “I kept waiting to see Jesus” in the fifth paragraph. Something does come out of this conflict though; the boy ends up getting saved. Something comes out of the conflict in the Sedaris article also; in the Sedaris narrative, the narrator ends up understanding what the teacher says and is actually able to respond to her. The meaning of this is that someone might be able to understand a language but not necessarily speak it and to never give up on learning. In the article by Hughes, the meaning would be that a problem might seem temporarily fixed, but it could come back and cause stress later. In conclusion, both narratives are well-written with conflicts of not exactly doing what the surroundings want them to do but overcoming it in their own way.
The Pursuit of Literacy by Malcolm X in Prison Studies and David Sedaris in Me Talk Pretty One Day
The narratives presented by both writers in “Prison Studies” and “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” both describe each author’s pursuit of literacy given different circumstances. In Sedaris’s account, he is illiterate in the French language, where Malcolm X struggles to learn English. Both are learning in a foreign environment, but places like France and prison may differ in attractiveness. Sedaris conquers his French illiteracy with the help of his unforgiving instructor where Malcolm X is self-taught. Interference is also an issue. Malcolm X is quite content in his prison cell for its sanctuary and iron curtain. Sedaris, on the other hand, is surrounded by the bright lights and distractions of Paris. Any aberration or lack thereof would affect each author’s education. Both men go through intense routines to overcome illiteracy. Malcolm X was devoted to copying, and thereby memorizing, the dictionary while Sedaris and his classmates were harassed by a merciless, cold-blooded French teacher. Both men go on to fulfill meaningful and renowned lives after first learning a crucial skill, although both neglect to follow up on their successes in these passages.
Through their writing, we can see that these two men were extremely committed to refinement through literacy. Malcolm X first began studying in prison, before he had any notion of the Nation of Islam and his movement. From this reading, it is not completely obvious on whether Malcolm X studied solely for himself or to improve his social speaking skills. There may be some overlap during his time in prison. Sedaris’s motives are a little clearer. He mentions in the beginning, that he had chosen to return to school. Sedaris does not reveal his true incentives for learning the French language, but we assume that it would have helped him in his playwriting. He must have been quite focused on this goal to move to France and put up with such a mean-spirited teacher.
Despite their reasons for dramatically improving their own literacy, both Malcolm X and Sedaris used their new expertise to turn the heads of many allegiant followers. Malcolm X used his vocal superiority to sway the minds of frustrated black Americans. David Sedaris used his knowledge of the French language to help him compose his plays, essays, and humor. Both cases are fine examples of great reward following practiced dedication and hard work. I, myself, cannot yet fall into the category of literacy giants like these two men. My experience with literacy is not unlike that of any other college freshmen. I believe I do mediocre work and, at this time, I do not have much to show for it. I have not gone through any of the trials like the ones Malcolm X or David Sedaris went through to get to where I am now, but the effort I applied to my high school English courses has prepared me for this one. I am proud to say the University has awarded me a small scholarship for my modest high school grades. I believe this is what I have to show for my experience in literacy. Like many other of my classmates, this may be my last English class. That does not mean what I take with me will be sidelined or forgotten, but as proportionally effective as the two authors.
The Challenges of David in the New World
Tekst B: Me talk pretty one day
David is 41 years old and returns to school. After some French lessons back in New-York, he goes to Paris were he wants to learn perfect French. As student you have some advantages, like discounts on food and the cinema or other kinds of entertainment. David moved to France exclusively because of the desire to speak French. The story doesn’t tell if David wants to settle and stay in France, or just go back to NY.
David is the only “older” man at the school. Everyone else is young, attractive and well dressed, which bothers him somehow. The school he attends is international. Even if he by far wasn’t the only one who doesn’t speak French too well, he feels that everybody is ahead of him. He is alone in another country, which doesn’t make it easy to meet new friends. Actually the story doesn’t tell about David having a single friend in France. According to himself, he was expected to perform, which I disagree with. The teacher seems to not care too much, about the performances of her students. She only sees the negative in everything. I think that the only one that has expectations of David is himself, which also can be hard.
The first day of school was very interesting for David, not only because he finally could measure his France with that of others. He learned very fast, that his French was by for not as good as the one, of some of the others. It seemed that just everyone was a lot better than David. I think, you might have a rough time learning a language as 41 year old. The first lesson went unexpected for David, as the teacher seemed to only make fun of her students and be pretty grumpy. David has trouble understanding whole sentences. The fact that everybody was talking so fast, was a major problem for David. He started doubting himself, wondering if he ever could learn this. The alphabet game was a setback for him as well. As the teacher made fun of the polish seamstress Anna, he realized that this trip would demand hard work, if he wants to succeed.
As the story is written in first person, we do have a nice insight, on what it is going on in Davids mind. He seems to try to avoid his problems by being funny and making jokes. Some of them are funny though.
The teacher ridiculed everything the pupils said, by even making ridiculous racist jokes about the Yugoslavian optimistic girl. She even makes jokes about genocide. You would probably be getting fired in Denmark, if you say something like that to your student in front of the entire class. David describes the teacher as an animal, ready to strike for her prey.
David told about his hate of blood sausage, intestinal pâtes, brain pudding and his love for IBM typewriters, bruise and his electric floor waxer. He manages to fail multiple times saying these few words. The teacher of course starts making jokes about him. He probably saw that coming. The teacher just proceeded, to make fun of German Eva and the other students. He thought the worst was over, but he didn’t know that this only was the beginning.
Several times David uses random letters to show, that he doesn’t understand a word. He again tries to be funny too hide his insecurity. The teacher speaks 5 languages fluently. It’s forbidden to talk anything but French at the school, but the teacher uses English sometimes to insult students. One thing you can’t take from David is that he really tries. He works all night on essays. It seems to pay off since he clearly improves his French throughout the story. But the teacher seemed to succeed to destroy her students as David started having fear speaking French. He started to ignore his phone when it rang and pretended to be deaf when he was asked something.
But he wasn’t alone with his fear which helped him a lot, knowing that he wasn’t the only one. The other students also talked about crying at night because of the fear. But they tried to stay strong.
Until fall everything seemed to be pretty bad for David. He just couldn’t improve. But then when the teacher again tried to make fun of David, he finally understood what she said. This was the first time he understood a whole sentence. This was a big step for David. He was now hungry after more and every insult from the teacher seemed like a blessing.
As someone that moved to another country, I know how it is not to understand anything what is being said to one. When I first moved to Denmark I couldn’t say anything but Thank you, hello and bye. I never wanted to speak Danish because I felt I just couldn’t do it right. Actually me and David have a lot in common when it comes to languages. Luckily I had teachers who would help me, instead of making fun of me. I think the breakpoint comes for anyone who just keeps trying. One day you will start understanding what is being said, and then you don’t want to do anything but speaking that language over and over again. David seems to me like a perfectly normal guy who has trouble finding his place in a new environment. I think sometime change can be tough, but it is not always bad, especially when you choose it yourself.
The Writer’s Duty in Me Talk Pretty One Day, a Book by David Sedaris
The writer’ s duty is the author’s responsibility to connect and convey their message, through the expression of human nature, to the audience in their craft. William Faulkner, 1949 Nobel Prize winner, exhibits the significance of the responsibility within his acceptance speech. Essay composers including Sedaris, in “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, embodies the writer’s duty Faulkner described, by utilizing personal anecdote and a satiric attitude to convey the need of persistence when approaching a challenge.
William Faulkner believed that writers must incorporate “love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice” into their texts. That authors must express emotions of the human heart, and to not be afraid of writing about fear and truth. By doing so, their voice is “not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help endure and prevail”; their voice becomes a beacon of support and guidance. He emphasizes the necessity of emotions to connect with the audience and to convey an individual’s purpose- only then, can a writer’s duty be accomplished. Sedaris employs Faulkner’s stated attributes of the writer’s duty within “Me Talk Pretty One Day.”
In the essay, the narrator is Sedaris himself, a forty-year old adult who transfers to France to embark on a journey to learn the French language. Through the essay, he conveys the learning process of a new language- particularly French in the context- as a quagmire. Sedaris illustrates the need for persistence when tackling a challenge such as learning French, ultimately establishing the writer’s duty. Through the use of personal anecdote, he creates a first-hand account of his experience as a nervous French student to connect with the reader. Ethos is primarily present within the anecdote due it being based on Sedaris’ actual encounters with learning French. Use of personal pronouns,“… (a) I hadn’t been asked that question in a while and (b) I realized, while laughing, that I myself did not know the alphabet”, and specific details of his learning experience in the anecdote, sparks the connection between the author and audience with credibility. Readers can trust the content of the essay due to the personal account and relive Sedaris’ struggle in learning French. Furthermore, due to the established connection, he can motivate the audience as he portrays himself as a symbol of persistence for individuals who share similar situations with him amidst tackling a challenge.
The connection between he and the audience is further enforced with vivid imagery and metaphoric language leading to the pathos present in his anecdotes. He correlates his environment to distinct visuals associated with his emotions, “Her rabbity mouth huffed for breath, and she stared down at her lap as though the appropriate comeback were stitched..”, exhibiting the condescending figure his teacher emitted by comparing her to a predator looking down upon their prey. Sedaris communicated to the audience that he was not only intimidated by his teacher’s antics but by the French language itself, “My fear and discomfort crept beyond the borders of the classroom and accompanied me out onto the wide boulevards.” The language had an impact on his social life outside of class- he turned away from opportunities involving him speaking in the dialect. Despite the negativity of his teacher and the frightening impression of French, he strived to comprehend the class material, “ spending four hours a night on my homework,” evidently portraying his persistence. Ultimately, the use of ethos creates a bond of trust, allowing the author to motivate and encourage, while pathos gives opportunity for the audience to envision the environment through his eyes.
A satirical tone is also implemented in the essay to help establish the writer’s duty. Within the passage, the use of hyperbole helps contribute to the tone, “I thought that everyone loved the mosquito, but here, in front of all the world, you claim to detest him”, the teacher is a prominent obstacle to the learning process with her sarcastic remarks. She degrades all of her students including Sebaris relentlessly. The tone allows the audience to realize the mockery Sebaris’ teacher placed on him and fellow colleagues. Additionally, the inclusion of antithesis exhibits the hardships he was subjected to and adds to the tone. Contrasting ideas such as beauty and curse in,“The teacher continued her diatribe and I settled back, bathing in the subtle beauty of each new curse and insult”, further conveys the denigrating statements of the professor towards the narrator. By displaying the intimidating figure of his teacher in a lighthearted and humorous fashion, he appeals to the audience. Evidently, the use of satirical tone empathizes with the audience and conveys that individuals may encounter enervating situations with a challenge or learning process.
Every writer has a duty to fulfill when they pick up a pen or start jamming away at their keyboard. Faulkner describes the duty as the role of the author to express human nature and to convey their message to the audience as well as connect with them. Sebraris embodies the writer’s duty in his essay, “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, with personal anecdote and a satirical attitude.
Critical Analysis Of Me Talk Pretty One Day By David Sedaris
The article, “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” by David Sedaris revolves around his experiences in early life and adulthood in France. The author discusses his struggles living in a family of baby boomers. With the parents having survived the Great Depression, most of the baby boomers encountered harsh parenting experiences. However, the story gets more of its meaning in Sedaris’ attempt to learn French. Having gone to France with “bottleneck” knowledge of the language, he aimed at enhancing his capacity and proficiency in French for comfortable handling of the witty conversations. After enrolling in a language class, Sedaris realizes that he was learning in a room with numerous individuals with different ages, experiences, and cultural backgrounds. Nonetheless, the group has at least one critical characteristic to define each person: the instructor hates everyone. In this case, Sedaris uses his article to discuss the challenges that one encounters throughout the life while using humorous language and elements of writing to urge his audience to avoid giving up in life and in attaining personal goals despite the circumstances. I agree with the author that one should not give up in the attempt to achieve something because the hardships and challenges that occur in the process do not necessarily define the outcomes of one’s efforts.
Initially, after the struggles of childhood and young adulthood, the author appears to be excited by becoming a student yet again at 41 years. In this case, he relates the early life of a student in college with the one that he had in France. Thus, Sedaris argues that there is no time that an individual can become a student and learn something in life. In this part, he does not hesitate to insert humor in his account of student life. Moreover, he assumes to happily embrace the privileges and advantages associated with being a student or having a student ID. ‘…a discounted entry fee at movie theaters, puppet shows, and Festyland, a far-flung amusement park that advertises with billboards picturing a cartoon stegosaurus sitting in a canoe and eating what appears to be a ham sandwich”. Essentially, the author aims at showing his audience that despite experiencing challenges in learning and having difficulties in coping or interacting with others, one may still emerge victorious in their goals and targets.
To relate to the hardships that he passes through in France, Sedaris uses various humorous and descriptive phrases about people, events, and places. First, he describes his nervousness and fear of being judged by the arrogant instructor and other people in the language class. Sedaris inserts humor by leaving his audience wondering how a 41-year-old person can have fear and nervousness due to being in a classroom. At one point, he associates the instructor’s harsh approach and strenuous interactions with others with the sufferings of refugees in a camp. “My only comfort was the knowledge that I was not alone. Huddled in the hallways and making the most of our pathetic French, my fellow students and I engaged in the sort of conversation commonly overheard in refugee camps”. In this light, Sedaris makes the classroom and the instructor to look like various terrifying and horrible experiences that one could hardly overcome. Thus, he shows that even in times of challenges and difficulties, one is never alone in their situation. Mostly, there are other people who are similarly facing the same situation.
At the end of the story, Sedaris deploys allusion, symbolism, and similes to explain his point of view clearly. He uses allusion, symbolism, and simile to create a ridiculous image or picture in the mind of his audience. Throughout his life in learning French, he lives in discomfort associated with the experiences he encounters with his instructors, student colleagues, and places. In an instance, Sedaris meets a younger student who appears to be more prolific in speaking French than him. He indicates that the student was “causing him to feel not unlike Pa Kettle trapped backstage after a fashion show”. Sedaris alludes from the 1960s movie by the film character, “Pa Kettle,” and his wife, “Ma,” who won a lavish home after securing a win in the film writing contest. The couple was lucky to leave their old and old-fashioned farmhouse for a new model home after the award. Sedaris associates his feeling as being the opposite of what the Pa Kettles felt like after the prize. To the audience, this allusion and comparison appear as a segment of the humor ruling the entire article as well as a perfect explanation of Sedaris’ experiences.
In conclusion, using childhood experiences and difficulties in France, Sedaris aims at introducing life challenges and hardships. Mainly, the author urges his audience not to give up despite the circumstances surrounding the attempts to achieve goals and objectives. Thus, he uses various writing elements including humor, allusion, symbolism, and simile to draw images and pictures, depicts situations, and prompt critical thinking among the audience. I agree with the author’s notion that life may present various challenges and difficulties. However, there is always a reason to carry on with what one aims at achieving. Consequently, associating everything with fun as well as positive and open-mindedness enhances one to succeed.
- Sedaris, D. (2010). Me talk pretty one day. Paris: Hachette.
Rhetorical Analysis Of David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day
In “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris, the author spends the first part of the book describing his childhood years in North Carolina with his many siblings. He talks about how he had to go through speech therapy, music lessons, and art school. He spends the second part of the book talking about how he lives in France with his boyfriend and learning French day by day. Every time he goes there, he learns a few more words and he even enrolls in school to learn French fluently. The other book, by William Zinsser, called “On Writing Well”, talks about how to write non-fiction. The author goes through all of the different techniques that are needed to write non-fiction. For example, some of the topics he goes over are the style and clutter of the writing. Sedaris uses many of Zinsser’s techniques, which makes his book more interesting.
Based on many of Zinsser’s writings, “Me Talk Pretty One Day” was an effective book. One example of this was the chapter that Zinsser was discussing how a nonfiction novel should start off. He states that “The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead.” Sedaris uses a hook to drag in a reader within the first sentence to continue reading to the next one and considering the entire book is short stories, Sedaris manages to create this for every single one of them. Every new chapter started discussing a new phase in the characters life and each began with a sentence that would make the reader finish the chapter before putting the book down. One of the most memorable sentences that Sedaris wrote to start a chapter was “When Hugh was in the fifth grade, his class took a field trip to the Ethiopian slaughterhouse.” This shows one example of how Sedaris drags the reader into the story. This sentence is not one that you might usually find to be normal, which makes the reader want to find out more about what really happened to Hugh and why that would be considered a normal class trip for fifth graders. These are some of the ways that Sedaris follows some of Zinsser’s advice in order to make the book more interesting.
Throughout the book Sedaris uses many rhetorical devices such as pathos. One instance when he uses pathos is in the second part of the book when he is in school learning French and gets bullied by the teacher. He uses this as an opportunity in the book for the reader to feel pity for him because he doesn’t know how to speak French while the rest of the class does. In the book he states “I absorbed as much of her abuse as I could understand,”, “The teacher proceed to belittle everyone”, and “My fear and discomfort crept beyond the borders of the classroom.” In these quotes Sedaris shows how much his teacher bullied him and his other classmates and how much it hurt him to be there. He uses pathos in order to get the sympathy of the reader to make them feel bad for him while he is in the class. He goes on to say how the teacher threw chalk at the students and the rest of the students were scared that she might punch one of them sooner or later. These are the ways that Sedaris uses pathos in his writing in order to convey his experience in school with more empathy.
Along with pathos, Sedaris also uses imagery in his book as another rhetoric technique. He states that “She led me through an unmarked door near the principal’s office, into a small, windowless room furnished with two facing desks.” As soon as someone reads this description an image pops into the reader’s head right away and it isn’t a pleasant one. In this case Sedaris is trying to get the reader to see the room through his eyes. He had to attend this meeting with his therapist, who was going to try to get rid of his lisp after he was singled out in front of all of his classmates. He also states “I arrived to find him dressed in flared slacks and sung turtle-neck sweaters, a swag of love beads hanging from his neck.” This quote describes David’s music teacher when his father wanted him to play the guitar. Sedaris describes his teacher in a very different manner as he has never seen anyone like him. He also does not believe that a person that is shorter than him should be teaching him. Imagery is this book uses the reader’s senses in order to see the details vividly, making the text come to life. Sedaris uses many different rhetorical devices in this book including pathos and imagery. By using these devices he makes the book a more interesting read by making the reader be involved in the book. Pathos makes the reader emotionally involved and imagery makes the reader see the text even while reading it. This adds on to one of the main purposes of the book, which was to express how difficult it was to live at that time while being a homosexual. Including how hard it is to try to fit in and learn an entirely new language. The target audience for Sedaris was anyone that ever went through an awkward stage in their life or never felt like they fit in somewhere.
Learning Motivation In Me Talk Pretty One Day By David Sedaris
In David Sedaris’ essay “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” Sedaris tells stories of his time in France, learning the French language, often through humorous stories. He explains how horrible his French teacher was and how that affected his learning and the learning of the other students. Anyone struggling to overcome something, whether it be a student struggling with a class or someone else, can relate to this essay and its message. People returning to school after a long period of time can also relate to some parts of this essay because of how Sedaris talks about his own experience with it. Sedaris’ essay focuses on motivating the reader to work hard for what they want and overcome their struggles and hardships, which is a lesson everyone has been told at least once in their life but needs a little reminding every once in a while.
Sedaris discusses what talking to the other students in the hallway before the dreaded class was like, something that every student can relate to. One of the students says, In French, “sometimes me cry alone at night”. Obviously, any stressed-out student reading this can relate to what this student said. Everyone who’s went to school has had one teacher or class that they didn’t like, or that caused them much stress. Readers can empathize with this student because they have had, or are having, similar experiences. This passage can also help the readers empathize with those who struggle to speak another language that is not their native tongue, showing that learning a new language does not come as easy to some people as to others. Pathos is the appeal in effect in this quote, playing on the stressed-out emotions of any student, or former student, reading Sedaris’ essay.
This awful class is what motivated Sedaris to work harder when it came to French. Sedaris explains it best when he says, “I took to four hours a night on my homework, putting in even more time whenever we were assigned and essay”. By explaining this, Sedaris shows that our attitude and our motivation is what matters when it comes to getting what we want, inspiring the reader. If we really want something, we will want to work for it until we have it. Anyone reading this would have had to struggle with motivation at some point in their lives, no matter what that motivation may be about, and perhaps their struggles inspired them to work harder to overcome it. When relating this quote to the previous one, it is obvious that no matter how hard someone tries, they will experience moments of desperation. They’ll struggle with what they’re trying to accomplish and possibly even feel like giving up, but it is mandatory that they overcome those obstacles to get what they want. Once again, pathos is the appeal being used here, appealing to the motivation and determination of the reader.
Of course, the most fulfilling part of doing a difficult task is completing it. Sedaris expresses this relief by saying, “For the first time since arriving in France, I could understand every word that someone was saying”. Sedaris, who was so convinced he was awful when it came to learning French that he would ignore phone calls and pretend to be deaf when spoken to outside of class, could finally understand a complete sentence in French. This happens when the teacher is insulting him once again, but this time he completely understands the entire sentence. He says that “the world opened up” when she told him that and with “great joy” he responded to her, asking her to insult him again so he can try to decipher what she’s going to say. Sedaris also uses humor in his essay, several times. One instance of humor in the essay is when remembering a time Sedaris was talking to his mother, he mentions how he and the other kids were expecting their mother to say she loves her children when listing off things she loves, but instead she said, “I love Tums”. Using this anecdote from his childhood can keep the audience entertained and engaged with the reading, and makes the text less daunting and serious, that way readers don’t feel overwhelmed by the negative anecdotes about his teacher. Pathos is the appeal used in telling the childhood story, it adds zing to the story that makes it intriguing to the reader.
Sedaris also makes a few mentions of his education before arriving to the class in France. Sedaris mentions that he took a “monthlong French class before leaving New York”. He also says, “at the age of forty-one, I am returning to school”. This proves how dedicated he is to his studies, coming back to school at an age where most other people in his situation may not have the courage to come back. This can help relate to readers who are around his age and going back to school. Like Sedaris, they may feel a tad uncomfortable with the fact that the majority of their classes are made up of young adults and teenagers. They may feel left out because of this. The main appeal in these two quotes is ethos, showing that he does have some credibility because of his education in French and general education. It also uses pathos as well, helping Sedaris relate to some of his readers.
Sedaris knows that one of the best ways to get a point across is by telling his personal experience with the subject that he is talking about. Through personal anecdotes and stories about his time learning more about the French language while staying in France he both keeps his readers entertained with humor and reminds them that motivation and hard work to overcome struggles and hardships is the key to getting anything we want in life. Sedaris leads by example here, showing how his motivation lead him to studying harder and focusing more in class, even though his teacher was terrible. All of Sedaris’ hard work and dedication pays off at the end of the essay, when his teacher is insulting him and he for the first time since class started finally “could understand every word that someone was saying”. If Sedaris made it through this class with this amount of dedication, anyone can make it through their struggle too. Any hardship that seems impossible now can be overcome with dedication and hard work.
- Sedaris, David. “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology 5th Edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017. Pp. 333-337.