An Analysis of A Shiner Like a Diamond by David Sedaris

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David Sedaris uses satire to depict the dysfunctional dynamic between his father and sister Amy in “A Shiner Like a Diamond.” Amy’s entire life, her father obsessively scrutinizes her appearance, likening his intensity to that of a pimp. He firmly believes that a woman’s physical beauty holds the utmost value.

Amy, a naturally strong and independent woman, decides to retaliate against her father’s vigilance and pressure by not being angry but seeking revenge instead. Her methods involve focusing on her weight and physical appearance. Despite being naturally beautiful, she pretends to have gained weight and uses make-up to appear battered for a magazine photo shoot. Additionally, she plays practical jokes on her father in an attempt to make him appear foolish. Throughout this dark essay, Sedaris uses irony and sarcasm. Amy emerges as a complex and enigmatic character who manipulates her well-meaning father relentlessly, causing the reader to sympathize greatly with him rather than her.

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Amy’s father had always emphasized the significance of his daughters’ physical attractiveness. In contrast, he allowed his sons to grow as unattractive and overweight as they pleased (26). Being traditional in his beliefs, the father thought that a woman’s only path to happiness was through marriage. He believed that physical beauty was essential for finding a spouse. He repeatedly reminded his daughters to be mindful of their weight, criticizing Flossie for her size and joking that she would need a trucking license if she gained two more pounds (26).

The father frequently commented on his daughter’s weight, greeting them with “Is it just my imagination, or have you put on a few pounds?” (30) whenever they paid a visit. Sedaris uses a sarcastic tone in this instance, allowing the reader to see the situation as humorous instead of cruel and oppressive. Despite his inability to understand his daughters, the father genuinely believes that by reminding them to be conscious of their appearance, he is helping ensure their only chance at happiness: marriage.

Amy has always been skilled at pretending to be other people, a talent she developed from a young age. During her time in school, she would often mimic her teachers and even feign ignorance, resulting in her failing first grade. For Christmas gifts, Amy would request items such as wigs, makeup, hospital gowns, and uniforms so she could transform herself into various individuals including her own mother and her mother’s friends. Whenever asked by her mother who she was imitating on any given day, Amy would cheekily reply with the question: “Who don’t you want me to be?”. The desire to portray someone else was deeply ingrained within Amy. One memorable incident involved Amy impersonating a family friend to manipulate her father into thinking that the woman had romantic feelings for him. This clever act was witnessed by Amy’s brother.

Upon entering the kitchen one afternoon, I saw my twelve year-old sister reciting lines from Guiding Light to our father. It appears that we have both been expecting this moment for some time now. The only thing left to consider is what course of action we should pursue. My dear, let’s rebel without any limitations. (28)

Amy’s unsuccessful attempts to trick her father into admitting his romantic interest in Penny Midland, the family friend she is posing as, elicit sympathy from the reader. Amy heartlessly tries to make her father appear foolish, but he denies her advances to protect his own life. As a result, Amy’s personality is evolving into something that closely resembles a multiple personality disorder (27).

Despite Sedaris’ seemingly despicable writing style and choice of words, his utilization of irony actually elicits sympathy from the reader towards the father. The expected inclination to criticize the father for his treatment of Amy is counteracted by the humorous tone, thereby preventing the reader from perceiving him as overtly sexist or terrible. Through his satirical approach, Sedaris succeeds in tempering the father’s harsh language, enabling the reader to withhold judgment despite his oppressive remarks concerning his daughter.

The father openly discusses seeing Amy after he believes she has gained a significant amount of weight: “Her what? Go ahead and say it: her big, fat ass. You could land a chopper on an ass like that. Who’s going to love her, who’s going to marry her with an ass like that?”(31). Although the father’s literal words are crude and disrespectful, the sarcastic manner in which he expresses his concerns allows the reader to empathize with his genuine worry for his daughter’s well-being.

The father’s response to Amy opening the refrigerator door is unpleasant, but it elicits laughter from the reader. Despite his distaste, he exclaims, “When she turned to open the refrigerator door, he acted as though she were tossing a lit match into the gas tank of his Porsche. What in God’s name are you doing? Look at you – you’re killing yourself” (31). This comedic use of words and exaggerated reaction allows the reader to find humor in the situation while avoiding any sense of resentment towards the father.

The dysfunctional relationship between Amy and her father depicted by Sedaris is highly exaggerated, yet it serves as a representation of the dynamics in many families today. Power struggles frequently arise within families, particularly between fathers and daughters. Amy inflicts cruel pranks on her father and relentlessly taunts him from a very early age, aiming to make him look foolish. In response, the father employs harsh language towards Amy, although the essay’s sarcastic and ironic tone alleviates any potential resentment the reader might harbor towards him.

Despite the seemingly oppressive treatment towards Amy, the reader sympathizes with the father as they are aware of his good intentions. Sedaris cleverly depicts the ironic relationship between Amy and her father, leading us to empathize greatly with the father while feeling little sympathy for the dark and manipulative Amy.

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An Analysis of A Shiner Like a Diamond by David Sedaris. (2022, Dec 28). Retrieved from

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