Me Talk Pretty One Day

by David Sedaris

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How does the author connect with the target audience in "Me Talk Pretty One Day"?

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David Sedaris uses humor and self-deprecating anecdotes to show his readers how he adjusts to new situations, in this case his French class.

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There is a wide variety of potential audiences that David Sedaris might have been trying to reach. One aspect of the essay is that it is so engaging in its universal applicability. Everyone has had the experience of entering a new situation and having to adjust to it. Frequently this...

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adjustment involves the use of language, whether it be a foreign language or verbal and nonverbal codes within one’s native language.

One of the main techniques that Sedaris uses is humor in order to emphasize the most common elements of the situation. The author’s humor is often derived from irony or sarcasm in the language; while he sometimes exaggerates (use of hyperbole), he often relies on understatement.

One nearly universal component of his experience is the classroom situation. Sedaris emphasizes how the students built solidarity through their opposition to the teacher, which was based in their shared belief in the teacher’s dislike—whether of each student as an individual or of students as a general category. Even though Sedaris initially felt misplaced in comparison to the other students, he formed a bond with them in defense of what they saw as the teacher’s aggressive behavior.

Sedaris also focuses on his individual experience to encourage the reader’s empathy, suggesting that he was the least popular, and possibly the least gifted, student.

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In "Me Talk Pretty One Day," how does the author connect with his audience to share his experience?

In his humorous essay about learning to speak French, David Sedaris locates his experiences in a place familiar to most people: a classroom. Focusing the essay’s action in a classroom provides a connection that is meaningful for most people. Although most Americans have never lived in Paris as he did, Sedaris connects the specific situation of being an American in France with the larger question of being a newcomer in a strange place. David reveals that his reason for moving to France was personal in that he accompanied his partner, Hugh, whose work took him there.

Sedaris concentrates on his experience with other students in the French language class, which include getting used to a very demanding and critical teacher. Even though Sedaris is an adult and many readers will never have lived in a foreign country or learned a new language, most people have been in an uncomfortable class situation or encountered a difficult teacher. He presents his fellow students and himself sharing the burden of trying to learn in an atmosphere that is not conducive to learning.

From the beginning, Sedaris uses humor to establish a light tone but also to convey that the subject has a serious side. He adopts a self-deprecating attitude, showing that he sees his fellow students as cooler than he is by making fun of his own clothing. Humor is also derived from his interpretation of the language textbook, which is for children, as a symbol of his discomfort in the new situation.

The reader can empathize with his initial sensation of feeling different from the other students, in this case primarily because of age. The teacher’s harshness has a negative effect on Sedaris’s confidence in learning. This difficulty adds a serious element to the story, and is likely to stimulate readers’ memories of challenging material or instructors from their own schools. Similarly, the way that he bonds with other students in opposition to the teacher may well be part of the readers’ experiences.

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