The Joy Of Reading From the very first glance, the reader is drawn into Sherman Alexie’s essay regarding his introduction to literature and its effects on his life. He titles the piece “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and me”, a title that carries both an air of happiness as well as confusion. The reader may think to themselves “Why does it say Superman in the title if this essay is about literature?”
Alexie’s cleverly titled, initial introduction lures the reader in and catches their attention. On the surface the essay is about his personal love for literature, but underneath it is a persuasive piece commenting on the importance of education and describing how it saved his life, and can save many others. Although this point is buried under rhetorical language, it still peaks through the layers of his anecdotes and teaches the reader the significance words can have on a child, especially one who is set up to fail in society. Alexie begins his essay as advertised, with an anecdote regarding his relation to spiderman. His humor is evident as he clarifies, he doesn’t exactly remember any information about the first issue of spiderman he read, not the title nor the plot, not even how he managed to obtain a copy, what he remembers is the effect this first piece of literature had on him. His rhetorical strategy at this point seems largely weighed down by ethos, as he connects to the reader through flashbacks.
As he progresses through the story it is evident that a more serious topic lies beneath the tales of his past and a more logos based approach will follow in the future. One line that stands out particularly loudly in this essay in “If he’d been anything but an Indian boy living on a reservation he might have been called a prodigy. But he is an Indian boy living on a reservation and is simply an oddity.” The slant rhyme is subtle, and possibly unintentional, but it has an effect that pushes forth the meaning of these sentences more than others. The rhyme acts as a marker that brightens the hypocrisy of society and highlights the racial prejudice Native Americans (Indians) face every day. Alexie also breaks a grammatical rule by beginning a sentence with a conjunction. This was purposeful in order to further highlight the unfair standards held against Indian children versus other children. “Indian children [who] were expected to be stupid.” Indian children were not only subject to societal pressure from non-natives, Alexie makes it very clear they were also judged by their peers and family. “Those who failed [in school] were ceremonially accepted by other Indians and appropriately pitied by non-Indians.” This paradox leaves the children to fall into a downward spiral, only to be fixed, in Alexie’s opinion, by education. Thus the significance of reading. For Alexie, reading ment freedom and relief from the outside world “I read with equal parts joy and desperation.”
By using the word desperation to describe his constant thirst for more reading material he emphasizes the wondrous effects reading can have on a child. This essay is one large persuasive piece of propaganda that aims to convince the reader that education can and has saved lives. Alexie is an obvious proponent of equal education for all children, even those society deems inferior, such as the Native American children. Sherman writes “I am trying to save our lives” when refering to his goal of spreading the joy of reading. He is active in his community and it seems that he utilizes his writing strengths in order to help children, struggling to succeed in a society that expects them to fail, just like he was. His goal was to help others, one step at a time, by making education an option for all and just as literature helped save him, he now writes to save others.