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An Essay On Sherman Alexie's Use Of Humor In His Short Story, "The Approximate Size Of My Favorite Tumor."

763 words - 4 pages

Can You Laugh at Death?What would you do if you found out you were dying of cancer? Would you able to make jokes and laugh it off as though it were nothing? Would your humor be a way of denying the truth? People use humor in different ways. In "The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor", Sherman Alexie tells how one man tries to use humor to deny the reality of his terminal disease. He shows how humor can be taken too far. This story demonstrates how humor can destroy one part of your life as it helps you cope with another.Jimmy has been diagnosed with cancer and knows he is going to die. He uses humor as a way of dealing with his disease. His ability to laugh and joke about his situation does not impress his wife, Norma. Instead, it has the opposite effect and causes her to leave him. The story shows two sides to humor. It shows its ability to help a man deal with, or deny, his certain death and its ability ...view middle of the document...

13). Humor is Jimmy's way of keeping himself in denial about his disease and his certain death. At first it appears as if he is being brave by being able to joke about his terminal illness. As you read, you begin to understand that he isn't using humor because he is brave; he is using it because he is afraid.Humor is Jimmy's way of hiding his fear. By joking about his disease, instead of confronting it, he is able to put on a brave face and appear as if he has risen above his situation. He doesn't want people to know how terrified he really is and humor is the shield he uses to protect himself. Coulombe states, "his humor suggests the extent to which Jimmy will go to try to protect himself from real pain" (par. 16).When Jimmy is discharged from the hospital because it is felt he will be more comfortable dying at home, we get one glimpse into his true feelings. As the doctor walks out after giving him the news, Jimmy says to himself, "As she walked out, I wanted to call her back and make an urgent confession, to ask forgiveness, to offer truth in return for salvation"(163). Jimmy finally realizes that his humor has driven away the one true thing he cared about, Norma. He realizes that his humor can't protect him from death. He ultimately realizes this truth and wants to exchange that truth for salvation. Jimmy's salvation would be Norma coming back to be with him during his last days.In the end Norma does come back to help Jimmy in his last days. You know that Jimmy has learned a lesson about his humor, that although he can be funny it is possible to take his humor to far. He realizes that you can't joke about everything all the time. That there are times you have to stop hiding and face things head-on, no matter how frightening they might be.Works Cited:Alexie, Sherman. "The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor." The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1993.Coulombe, Joseph. "The approximate size of his favorite humor: Sherman Alexie's comic Connections and disconnections in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven". The American Indian Quarterly 1 Jan. 2002. Literature Resource Center, 2005.

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