David Sedaris

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What is the theme of the story "Jesus Shaves" by David Sedaris?

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In the humorous short story "Jesus Shaves," the narrator is in a basic French class with a multinational group of students. The teacher is attempting to explain pronouns by having the class describe what people do on various holidays. She starts with Bastille Day, a holiday in France.

She then asks the class about what people do on Easter. Before students can give answers, though, a Moroccan student asks what Easter is. In broken and rudimentary French, the narrator and other students attempt to explain. They start by trying to describe the death and resurrection of Jesus. When that doesn't work, the narrator talks about the Easter Bunny bringing chocolates, and the teacher says that in France, a big bell flies the chocolate in from Rome. The Moroccan student gives up trying to understand, and the exchange ends in confusion.

The main theme that Sedaris is attempting to explore in this story is the subjective nature of beliefs. Religious convictions, folktales, and legends make perfect sense in the context of one culture and language, but when people try to explain the same things to people from different backgrounds, they can come across as ridiculous. The author brings this out near the end of the story in his discussion on faith.

In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom.

He goes on to explain that it takes faith for students to believe that they can learn a new language. It takes further steps of faith to believe in holiday stories, an omniscient God that watches and guides people, and the story of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. His final comments, though, indicate that Sedaris is deeply skeptical about the claims of religious faith.

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