In this essay, David Sedaris is encouraging the reader to think about the impact of new experiences on one’s identity. Rather than being a persuasive or argumentative essay, in which the author makes a claim that is backed up by evidence, Sedaris’s humorous piece is primarily reflective. In close focus, the essay is about the author’s experiences in a French-language class. Many of those experiences are negative, including his relationship with the teacher, whose methods he dislikes. He conveys how language learning largely depends on the individual student’s motivation and attitude, and the strong impact of an “Aha!” moment when the language begins to make sense.
We can also see the language class as a metaphor for Sedaris’s coming to feel at home in France. As a student, he builds solidarity with the other students, in part through their shared experiences with the teacher. These connections help him overcome the idea of his own isolation in a foreign land. In the latter regard, the essay is more universal, considering identity-formation as an aspect of entering into any new experience.