It is possible to suggest that the most universal and inclusive definition of the purpose of literature as an art is to tell a good story. While it is apparent that various genres of literature fulfill this purpose differently, it could be suggested that the genre of memoirs is the closest one to the definition that was formulated in the previous sentence. By telling a personal story (or, usually, a set of interrelated stories), an author attempts to explore topics that are universal for humans. However, not every example of a memoir could be considered a successfully told story. It is argued that the author’s piece of literary work is an example of an engaging and powerful story. The reason is that he succeeds in turning his personal experience into a narration that explores topics that are universal for the majority of people.
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The thesis statement that was formulated in the introduction should be proven by referencing specific examples from the text. However, a question has to be answered: what are the components of a good story? It is suggested that they are the following: an engaging storyline, the opposition of different points of view, the employment of literary tropes, the point of climax, and the conclusion, which is whether told directly or it is just implied. Arguably, each of the mentioned aspects could be traced in the essays by Sedaris.
First of all, “Us and Them” indeed has an engaging storyline. It is not necessarily that the story should be about adventures to be interesting. Instead, it should have the principal components that drive the plot of the story from one point to another. “Us and Them” begin with the description of the author’s family, and as it is evident from this description, they enjoy watching TV. Then, a new character, Mr. Tomkey, comes to the stage, and here comes the engaging part: by introducing the character who does not confess the same beliefs as the author of the story (the Tomkeys family does not own and “does not believe in TV”), the author creates a tension of an upcoming collision (850). The reader starts to wonder what would happen further. This opposition determines the flow of the essay, as Sedaris describes how he watches Tomkey’s family dinners in the evening, how he goes to the same school as Mr. Tomkey’s children, et cetera.
As it is obvious enough, the development of the storyline could not go on for a long time without intensifying the situation. In other words, a good story should always include the event, which becomes the turning point for at least one of the characters in the story. In the essay by Sedaris, such a turning point represents the episode in which the Tomkeys family comes to the house of the author because they missed the Halloween night and thus they came to trick-or-treat the next day. The mother of the author is confused because she gave away all the candies that were prepared for trick-or-treating, and thus she has to ask her children to give some of their sweets. Sedaris, as he portrays himself as a little boy, does not want to give his candies, and he cannot come up with a better idea than to attempt to eat all the sweets so that they would not be given to Tomkeys.
However, the mother takes away some candies, she gives them to Tomkeys, and then the family returns to their evening routine of watching TV together. At first sight, this might not sound like a profoundly climatic point in the story. Nevertheless, it is argued that the author uses the literary trope of annular composition masterly to convey this point. The final paragraph of the story is the key to the understanding of the message of the whole essay.
The author, as he describes himself as a child, is confused and ashamed by his actions. Sedaris uses the metaphor of a pig to describe how he feels about his greedy attempt to save candies for himself. Then, the TV imagery, with which the essay begins, comes as a series of pictures that dislodge the feeling of shame from the author’s mind. The overall message of the story is not told straight as the reader should guess that the author comments upon the disadvantages of the TV culture.
It is possible to observe that the thesis statement of this paper is proven by the discussion from the previous section. By the measures of a good story, formulated at the beginning of the main body, the essay by Sedaris is an excellent example of such a story. The author succeeds in his attempt to employ his personal experience as an instrument for elaborating on universal topics. Another advantage of the text under consideration is that it does not promote its morale straightforwardly, but instead, Sedaris leaves the reader an opportunity for thinking and making their conclusions.
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Sedaris, David. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Back Bay Books, 2005.