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“The Best of Me” by David Sedaris


Predominantly, people perceive funny and stories as an entertaining pastime. It is considered to be the way to relieve stress and forget about everyday problems. However, it may appear educative as well, as some of such stories may have an in-depth meaning or address hot-button issues. An illustrative example of this theses could be the work Repeat After Me, written by David Sedaris and published in his book The Best of Me. Although it seems to be amusing and superficial at the beginning of reading it, in the end, it causes disappointing feelings and makes the readers reflect on the meaning of the story. While describing the strange qualities of his sister and her relationships with her parrot, the author reveals the truth about himself.

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The Sister’s Description

The entire story is devoted to the relationships between the author, David Sedaris, and his elder sister Lisa and her communication with her parrot Henry. It should be mentioned that she is relatively neurotic, and the writer is making fun of her worries at the beginning of the work. He describes the phone conversation, when Liza adhered to code in order to deliver some private information due to her fear to be overheard:

“Are you on a cell phone?”
“Of course not,” she said. “This is just a regular cordless, but still, you have to be careful” (Sedaris 142).

In addition, the writer mentions a case when he had to spend an hour in her sister’s house alone and Lisa’s worries and hysteria in this regard:

“She left her work number, her husband’s work number, and the number of the next-door neighbor, adding that she didn’t know the woman very well, so probably shouldn’t bother her unless it was an emergency” (Sedaris 143).

Another quality, which the author highlights about Liza, is her love for animals. Sedaris draws attention to the fact that Lisa tends to be disappointed and cry due to a sick-pet story, though she will stay relatively calm about human suffering (Sedaris 146). In general, the author provides the readers with a range of memories connected with his communication with her sister, their adolescent period of life and childhood, and some neurotic features of his sisters. They are not presented in a chronological sequence, and the facts are not connected to each other. Therefore, by mentioning the dialogues and amusing situations, David Sedaris created an impression about his sister as an anxious and strange to some extent person, whom he is poking fun. For this reason, containing a range of memories about communication with his sister, at first glance, the story seems to be entertaining.

Henry and David

Despite being a bird, Henry appears to be an important character in the story. The writer recollects an hour when he had to be alone at his sister’s house and speak with her pet. David Sedaris remembers: “It was the same conversation we’d had the last time I saw him, yet still I found it fascinating” (145). The only question parrot could ask was ‘How are you doing?”. In general, Henry could pronounce the phrases, which were said by other people, though he did not understand the sense.

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Mentioning different stories of his and his sister’s life, the author draws a parallel between Henry and himself. David Sedaris states that his sister is feared to tell him something important and private. The reason for it is the fact that he is a writer, and there is a high likelihood that he will include this information in his works (Sedaris). The author confesses that he uses the fact he is told in his writings. He attempts to avoid it and always promises his family no to do it (Sedaris). However, David Sedaris claims: “I always promise but it’s generally understood that my word means nothing” (147). Despite swearing his family many times, he still continues to use this information in his works.

In addition, the writer remembers a situation connected with David’s special trait. Once, his sister told him about a situation in her life, which causes her a great number of worries and disappointment. At the end of her story, when Lisa was crying, David touched his notebook, determined to write some thoughts in this regard. However, the sister stooped him: “If you ever,” she said, “ever repeat that story; I will never talk to you again” (Sedaris 155). Therefore, these cases were mentioned in order to slightly allude the readers to the parallel between Henry and David.

Pinnacle and Turning Point

However, at the end of the work, readers can understand that the story is overarching, and the sense of the plot is significantly deeper than a chronological sequence of events and Liza’s description. Thus, the concluding moments of the story appear to be “both its pinnacle and turning point” (“Repeating the Mood” para. 2). In the end, all the pieces of different memories gather in a comprehensive picture (Meier). The author imagines a hypothetical scene when one of the readers encounters a man, who is walking at night. The man is doing to Lisa’s house and removes the covering of the bird’s cage:

“Through everything that’s come before this moment, we understand that the man has something important to say. From his own mouth, the words are meaningless, so he pulls up a chair. The clock reads 3:00 A.M., then 4:00, then 5:00, as he sits before the brilliant bird [in the kitchen] repeating slowly and clearly the words, “Forgive me. Forgive me: Forgive me” (Sedaris 451).

While reading this scene, it is possible to guess that the man is the author, and the bird is Lisa’s parrot. Sideris claims: “his own mouth the words [forgive me] are meaningless” (156). This scene refers to the conversation between the writer and his sister, when she asked him to keep her story a secret. Therefore, in this passage, it is evident that the author comprehends and admits his guilt of revealing personal information about his family despite their asks (Farrar; “Repeating the Mood”). Although David was making fun of his sister at the beginning of the work, in the end, he understands the unpleasant truth about his character and habit.


In conclusion, it can be highlighted that, although the story seems to be entertaining at the beginning, at the end, it prompts the reader to reflect and disappoint to some extent. It contains an in-depth insight into revealing the truth about the author’s behavior. In the beginning, he is making fun of his sister’s strange traits and describes her mistakes, though, in the end, he understands that he was wrong in his attitude to his family’s privacy. In addition, he comprehends that his words are meaningless, comparing them to the parrot’s speech, who repeats the phrases, but does not the meaning.

Works Cited

Farrar, Victoria. “Victoria Farrar on David Sedaris’s “Repeat After Me.” 2013, Web.

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Meier, Riki. “The Marginalia of David Sedaris’s “Repeat After Me.” Superstition Review, 2014, Web.

“Repeating the Mood”. Hashtagoctothorpe, 2012, Web.

Sedaris, David. The Best of Me. Large Print, 2020.

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