"I'm a Mad Dog Biting Myself for Sympathy" is a short story by Louise Erdrich. She is the daughter of a Chippewa Indian mother and a German-American father, and she often writes stories that treat themes that are central to her native heritage and uses characters from each side of her cultural identity.
The literary device of characterization is used with a shrewd and perceptive hand in this story. Erdrich packs a lot of complex characterization into this story, and she does it subtly and with great economy. She also depends on us to pay attention and put together the pieces. The protagonist—we do not learn his name—decides to steal a stuffed toucan from a Walmart in Fargo, North Dakota, as a present to give to his girlfriend. In the beginning he tells us:
Who I am is just the habit of what I always was, and who I'll be is the result. This come clears to me at the wrong time. I am standing in a line, almost rehabilitated.
The line he is in is the line in the Walmart. His reasoning causes...
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