Sherman Alexie Questions and Answers

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In "Superman and Me," what does Alexie realize about paragraphs, and how does he use that to understand the world around him?

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Sherman Alexie recounts a story of when he was a young boy, before he understood writing and the structure of an essay. He was examining one of his father's books and saw the delineations that separated the words into paragraphs, and he was struck by the structure. He realized that paragraphs were, as he said "fences" that kept words together, organizing them into coherent thoughts and pointing them in the same direction so that they could work together.

In this realization, he came to learn about the world around him. He recognized that groups of people, cities, and towns all acted as "paragraphs" to collect people together and guide them to a common purpose. More importantly, he recognized this structure in the reservation on which his family lived. This community held the people together and collected them into one place. In that place, they worked for a common purpose and supported one another, making a complete "paragraph".

His understanding of the concept helped him to structure and...

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rlilly427 | Student

"I realized that a paragraph was a fence that held words. "

Notice Alexie's first sentence. Alexie is using a fence as an analogy for the concept that paragraphs form a boundary where only details that support a distinct main idea that the paragraph is trying to communicate. An analogy is a comparison between two things, typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification. Think of what a fence does. It shows a clear line as to where a yard or space stops. Also, think of what belongs in that area. If the fence is around a child's park, what types of of things would you see inside the fence and what would be an example of something that does not belong? A slide or a set of swings would make sense, but a zoo animal certainly would not. 

Apply this concept to reading and writing paragraphs. Only sentences that "work together to support a common purpose," would make sense. Alexie visualizes a fence and its purpose in order to better understand how an organized paragraph should read. A sentence or detail that does not pertain to the common purpose or main idea, does not belong. Just as a zoo animal wouldn't belong in a fenced in child's park. 

Look at the two paragraphs I just wrote. Why did I choose to write two different paragraphs? What are the main ideas of each? Notice my first paragraph discusses the analogy. My second paragraph discusses application to paragraph structure. Although they are both related to the same topic, they each have a main idea distinct from each other. This is why I chose to separate each into two different paragraphs. 

Below is a link that can help to further explain paragraph structure and organization. 

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/606/01/

 

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