In his essay “Superman and Me,” Sherman Alexie recounts learning the purpose of a paragraph as a child. Even before he is old enough to know the word "paragraph," Alexie examines his father’s books, realizing that “a paragraph was a fence that held words.” Alexie realizes that these paragraphs “worked together for a common purpose” and that “they [have] some specific reason for being inside the same fence.”
What makes this epiphany remarkable to Alexie is its applicability. He begins to see the rest of the world in the same terms, noting that
Our reservation was a small paragraph within the United States. My family's house was a paragraph, distinct from the other paragraphs of the LeBrets to the north, the Fords to our south and the Tribal School to the west. Inside our house, each family member existed as a separate paragraph but still had genetics and common experiences to link us.
Although the second half of Alexie’s essay moves away from explicitly discussing the paragraph, we can see the effect that this way of thinking still has on Alexie. The conclusion of the essay focuses on the role that Alexie plays for Indian students who want to become writers:
The Indian kids crowd the classroom. Many are writing their own poems, short stories and novels. They have read my books. They have read many other books. They look at me with bright eyes and arrogant wonder. They are trying to save their lives.
Although they might not realize it in the same terms, these students are part of the same paragraph. For Alexie, they are inside the same fence—at times both literally and figuratively. As he puts it in the final sentence: “I am trying to save our lives.”