Me Talk Pretty One Day

by David Sedaris

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What is the author's claim in Me Talk Pretty One Day?

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The author, David Sedaris, claims that language is the key to social acceptance. By examining issues such as the social effect of a lisp, the effects of using swear words, and the challenges of trying to communicate effectively in a new language, Sedaris sheds light on the link between language and social acceptance. Individual stories may have their own claims, also related to language.

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Humor writer David Sedaris’s claim in the story titled “Me Talk Pretty One Day” is that the joy of grasping a foreign language outweighs the negativity of insults while struggling to learn it. At the end of this piece, after the daily ridicule of David and his classmates, the imperious French language teacher tells him,

Every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section.” And it struck me that, for the first time since arriving in France, I could understand every word that someone was saying.

Sedaris suddenly realizes that he comprehends exactly what she is saying, as disparaging as her words are. His understanding of the French language comes after weeks or months of embarrassing fits and starts in class. On the first day of class, the teacher systematically ridicules each student, like the two Polish Annas who

surely had clear notions of what they loved and hated, but like the rest of us, they were limited in terms of vocabulary, and this made them appear less than sophisticated.

Others classmates include Carlos the Argentinian romantic, the young Yugoslavian lover of life, the industrious German Eva, the Japanese paintbrush- and soap-aficionado Yukari, and students from Italy, the Netherlands, Thailand, Korea, and China. After she asks each student to state their likes and dislikes, the teacher then mocks each answer. The students—unversed in French—sputter back primitive replies in attempts to explain and defend themselves. As David points out, their limitations in French vocabulary and fluency prevent them from providing “sophisticated” or well-developed answers to communicate and express their true thoughts accurately.

At home, Sedaris toils for four hours each night on French homework. He is not the only hardworking-yet-discouraged student; he finds himself with his classmates

huddled in the hallways and making the most of our pathetic French … engaged in the sort of conversation commonly overhead in refugee camps.

“Sometimes me cry alone at night.”

“That be common for I, also, but be more strong, you. Much work and someday you talk pretty. People start love you soon. Maybe tomorrow, okay.”

Love and acceptance among the classmates are not in doubt; it is love, acceptance, or just plain respect from the French teacher—who tells David “I hate you” in flawless English—that is in question.

Sedaris and his classmate feel despair because “over time it became impossible to believe that any of us would ever improve.”

Nonetheless, he does improve in the language. He achieves a breakthrough during the teacher’s comparison of him to a cesarean section.

Understanding doesn’t mean that you can suddenly speak the language. Far from it. It’s a small step, nothing more, yet its rewards are intoxicating and deceptive. The teacher continued her diatribe and I settled back, bathing in the subtle beauty of each new curse and insult.

The “intoxicating and deceptive” effects of comprehension are like drugs that enchant the learner and block the pain of insults. The teacher’s tirade becomes a contradictory combination of beauty and abuse. She continues,

“You exhaust me with your foolishness and reward my efforts with nothing but pain, do you understand me?”

The world opened up, and it was with great joy that I responded, “I know the thing that you speak exact now. Talk me more, you, plus, please, plus.”

Here, Sedaris recalls the line Please, sir, I want some more” from Oliver Twist, where the orphan asks for more food but instead is met with a blow to his head. Sedaris invites more words from his teacher—even if they are insults—because now he feels joy in understanding this whole new world of the French language. More "talk" and words feed Sendaris's hunger to discover more in this uncharted open world.

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Broadly, David Sedaris's claim in Me Talk Pretty One Day is that language is key to social acceptance.

In one story, Sedaris introduces us to his young self visiting the school speech therapist in an effort to get help to overcome his lisp. He notes that for many kids, it was humiliating to have to leave class and go to speech therapy, but for the popular kids, it was no big deal. Difficulties with language, therefore, exacerbated social problems. This then ties in to the claim that I postulated above: that language is the key to social acceptance.

In one of the stories that Sedaris tells about his college years, titled "You Can't Kill the Rooster," Sedaris makes fun of his younger brother's reliance on swear words to communicate. Since swearing is often associated with a lack of social acceptance, this again ties into the claim of a connection between the words that we use and being accepted in social circles.

Later in life, Sedaris relocates to Paris, and in the story after which the book is named, "Me Talk Pretty One Day," he discusses his difficulties in becoming proficient in French. In this context, language is about more than social acceptance—it is about understanding what is going on around him.

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David Sedaris showcases his experience of taking French language lessons in Paris to make a point about the relationship between cultural understanding and identity. When David moved to Paris with his partner, Hugh, he was concerned about his limited abilities in speaking French. He initially believes that taking a class will help him learn the language, but he quickly comes to dread the teacher who, he is sure, delights in sadistically tormenting the students. David’s efforts to study harder and become the model student are thwarted, however; the teacher’s opinion of him actually worsens. Therefore, an unexpected consequence of her hostility is a bond of solidarity with the other students. They suffer together as they make limited progress in learning French. As the days go on, however, David realizes that the life lessons he is learning are the broader context of French culture as experienced by outsiders.

When he arrives at a point where he can both speak and comprehend easily, without consciously willing his brain to function in an alien manner, he gains a new understanding of what language means. In this manner, he also comes to terms with his own identity, which includes being the person who transplanted himself because of his love for Hugh. His sense of feeling alien in another country will not completely fade, because he has a solid understanding of who he is, but for him that feeling will always be part of speaking French.

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What is the thesis in Me Talk Pretty One Day?

David Sedaris's collection of his writings, Me Talk Pretty One Day is inherently a collection of tales about acceptance and a sense of belonging. The title of the collection comes from his inability to speak French well, having moved there with his partner after spending much of his life in the conservative South.

His feeling of displacement is consistent throughout the stories, because he is a gay man who has grown up in the culture of a very conservative region of the United States. Feeling excluded and unaccepted is normal for him, but he eventually finds a partner and moves to a more accepting city in the world, learning to speak French and trying to make connections in a brand new place.

Ironically, when he is in France, he is accepted as a gay man without issue, but has a new form of trouble—a more humorous one. He is practically unable to communicate because of his ineptitude with the language, which leads him into some awkward and humorous scenarios.

Overall, a thesis for this collection would be that fitting in and finding your place in the world is a difficult task, but it may be accomplished in a way you never expected when you were younger.

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What is the thesis in Me Talk Pretty One Day?

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris is a collection of humorous first person essays. Unlike an argumentative book or essay, it does not have a thesis. It is not trying to prove or argue a single point. Instead, it has several related themes and reveals both the character of the author and insights into the society surrounding him.

The first theme is of the relationship between language and social position and how language serves as a marker and a site of regulation of societal norms. When we first encounter Sedaris as a child assigned to speech therapy for a lisp, we gradually realize that in the southern culture of his time "lisp" was not a scientific classification but rather a marker of speech habits that seemed to signify homosexuality. The "therapy" for the lisp was a proxy for inculcating traditions of heterosexual masculinity.

In later stories about his life in France, Sedaris's attempts to learn French also signify an attempt to fit in to French society and his teachers' attempts to correct his speech make him aware of broader cultural differences and how he in some way is failing to fit in a dominant culture. 

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What is the thesis in Me Talk Pretty One Day?

The thesis of the particular essay "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is that learning something new makes people feel vulnerable. In this essay, Sedaris describes, in hilarious terms, his experience taking a French class in Paris. He writes, "At my age, a reasonable person should have completed his sentence in the prison of the nervous and the insecure." In other words, he wrongly thought that feeling so insecure was behind him. Though he is in his 40s when he takes this course, he is more frightened than ever before.

Learning a new language is like being a child again, Sedaris realizes. He is robbed of the ability to express himself with facility, as he has to speak entirely in French, and his teacher mocks him mercilessly. After several weeks of suffering, he is finally able to understand his teacher's insults, and he feels like his world has opened up, much as a child might feel once he or she learns to express oneself.

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What is the thesis in Me Talk Pretty One Day?

It is actually very difficult to identify any one thesis in this collection of essays by David Sedaris that cover a wide range of different topics. One uniting theme is that they all reflect on the author's life in his younger days and how he managed to make his way through childhood and adolescence and find his place in the world. The thesis could therefore be explained on these terms: these essays show the funny, sometimes bittersweet and painful recollection of a young man who slowly but surely discovers his own identity and makes his own way through life. This is not just a result of his homosexuality, but also through his identity as an American, as the following quote explores in a typically hilarious fashion:

Every day we're told that we live in the greatest country on earth. And it's always stated as an undeniable fact: Leos are born between July 23 and August 22, fitted queen-size sheets measure sixty by eighty inches, and America is the greatest country on earth. Having grown up with this in our ears, it's startling to realize that other countries have nationalistic slogans of their own, none of which are 'We're number two!”

Just as Sedaris has to cope with his sexuality and what that means for him, as he grows up and spends time abroad, he also has to come to terms with his American cultural identity and how this fits into who he is and his life. The collection of essays thus represent a very tender and funny exploration of identity and selfhood.

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What is the conclusion to Me Talk Pretty One Day?

Both the title essay and the collection of essays refer to the deep, complex connections between language and identity.

David Sedaris learned a second language as an adult as part of his developing relationship with Hugh, who was the one who wanted to move to France. Moving overseas with him was an important part of committing not only to another man but to his identity as an adult gay man. Ironically, this aspect of adulthood was accompanied by the infantilizing experience of attending language classes. And as part of the process of building a home with Hugh and feeling at home in Paris, he spent large amounts of time with fellow strangers or "refugees" in the class.

The conclusion that Sedaris comes to is both about learning language and acquiring self-knowledge more generally. Understanding who you are rarely comes as an epiphany—it is incremental, and the realization sneaks up on you.

Understanding doesn’t mean that you can suddenly speak the language. Far from it. It’s a small step, nothing more, yet its rewards are intoxicating and deceptive.

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What is the conclusion to Me Talk Pretty One Day?

Me Talk Pretty One Day is the title of a series of essays by David Sedaris, but it's also the title of the eponymous essay, which doesn't come last in the book. Thus, the answer depends on whether you're referring to the essay itself or to the entire book.

The essay "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is about Sedaris learning French while living in Paris. He talks about going back to language school and meeting the other students in the class, who are all from different countries. The teacher is a sneaky and bitter woman who mocks the students. He has trouble grasping the language and feels like he won't be able to get alone with any fluency.

One day, the teacher tells him that "every day spent with you is like having a cesarean section." He understands her; Sedaris notes that it's his first full French sentence where he's understood every word. She insults him again and he happily tells her that he understands her and asks her to "talk me more, you, plus, please, plus."

The book Me Talk Pretty One Day ends with an essay titled "I'll Eat What He's Wearing." It's a story about his father visiting Sedaris and his partner Hugh in France. It paints a picture of his father as a thrifty man who eats old, rotten food and buys at a discount whenever he can. He recalls biting into produce in his childhood home and instead of feeling the crunch of it between his teeth, feeling it softly give way.

The story ends with his father explaining that he found something brown in his suitcase, started to eat it, and then realized it was a piece of a hat that had fallen off. Sedaris says to the reader that it may seem his father stopped eating because it wasn't food—but that wasn't the case. He says his father stopped eating to save it for later since now, having not killed him, he knew the cap was edible.

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What is the thesis statement of Me Talk Pretty One Day?

Sedaris's anecdotal style seems to avoid the need for a thesis statement, at least in the classic sense. If you read the essay looking for a sentence that declares what his piece will "prove," you are likely to be disappointed. I suppose you could consider the first line‚—"At the age of forty-one, I am returning to school and have to think of myself as what my French textbook calls 'a true debutant'"—as a thesis of sorts. But that does not quite get at what his essay is about.

Sedaris's argument is about the nature of education, and how, even as an adult, the dynamics of the classroom remain the same. He writes about how learning is hard, and not knowing the answer to a question can be shameful. His teacher is abusive and insulting, but as a student he found himself nevertheless working very hard to please her. In a way, her abuse made his learning possible, because it forced him to think creatively about ways he could prove to her that he was a good student. Her abuse also became a thing all the students had to endure together, a kind of shared experience through which they supported one another. 

More than that, however, Sedaris is writing about the process of understanding. When his teacher tells him that teaching him is like having "a Caesarian section," rather than taking offense, he becomes elated, because he could understand what she said. Maybe the best thesis statement comes at the end of the piece:

Understanding doesn’t mean that you can suddenly speak the language. Far from it. It’s a small step, nothing more, yet its rewards are intoxicating and deceptive.

Learning anything is complex and difficult, but when you find that you actually are beginning to understand, the experience is euphoric, no matter what age you might be.

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What is the thesis statement of Me Talk Pretty One Day?

In this essay, Sedaris explains what it is like for him to enroll in an intensive French class at age 41. The thesis statement of the essay is that learning makes people, particularly adults, feel vulnerable because they are reduced to a child-like state. When Sedaris starts the class, he feels decidedly uncomfortable, and he says that at this point in his life he expected he would be spared insecurity. However, the feeling has returned in full force as he faces a French teacher who is incredibly intimidating and insulting. Sedaris realizes that he does not even know the alphabet in French, and he does not understand a great deal of what his teacher says (he renders these words as nonsense words in his account of the story). In the end, when he finally develops some fluency in French, he even enjoys his nasty teacher's insults, feeling a bit more at home with the language. It is only after a long period of struggle that some of his insecurity in French lessens.

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What is the thesis statement of Me Talk Pretty One Day?

In his "Me Talk Pretty One Day" essay, David Sedaris explores his feelings of alienation that come from his attempt to learn a foreign language while living in a foreign land. He explains this feeling early on when he is awed by the students at the school whose French was spoken with "ease and confidence [he] felt intimidating" and how they were "all young, attractive and well dressed, causing me to feel not like Pa Kettle trapped backstage after a fashion show."

Throughout the essay, Sedaris explores this idea through humor, whether it's through the opening paragraph in which he describes how he would rather use his student ID to get a discount at an odd amusement park, or how his French teacher's abusive tactics, although funny in their descriptions, created "fear and discomfort" in Sedaris, which "crept beyond the borders of the classroom and accompanied me out onto the wide boulevards."

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What is a strong thesis statement for an essay on the piece "Me Talk Pretty One Day"?

In preparing an essay about “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” the writer should determine what they think is the primary theme (or themes) of David Sedaris’s piece. A strong thesis will reflect the main idea that Sedaris is conveying and indicate the kinds of evidence that the writer will use to support their assertion.

In his short essay, Sedaris explores two related themes, either of which could be considered primary. On the literal level, he is writing about learning a foreign language. A straightforward thesis about this theme could stress the difficulties of learning French and indicate that Sedaris offers multiple examples of challenging incidents during this process.

On a broader level, however, the author is addressing the challenges that a person faces in adapting to a new situation. The broader situation he explores is his relationship with his partner, his commitment to moving to a new place with him, and his growing confidence at finding his own identity in this situation. In that regard, his move to France and learning French would be considered the evidence that supports his interpretation of identity-formation.

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What is the theory in Me Talk Pretty One Day?

While there isn't a specific theory put forward in this great collection of humorous autobiographical essays, the common denominator in a lot of them is references to difficulties in speaking and communicating clearly.

For example, some of the essays cover the awkward moments Sedaris had at school during a time in which he was struggling with a lisp, which the school's speech therapist was attempting to help him with this. Sedaris notes with a touch of irony that while a number of kids were embarrassed by being called out of class for speech therapy, it never seemed to bother the popular kids.

Later in the collection of essays, another anecdote about language comes up when the author starts teasing his brother, Paul, about how much he swears.

Later still, when Sedaris relocates to Paris, he finds much humor in his attempts to become more proficient in French and admits to spending way more time than he would have liked watching dubbed American movies while in Paris. Again, this links back to the theme of words, language, and communication.

The title of this collection of essays also adds credence to the theory that language can lead to challenges. The phrase "me talk pretty one day," while understandable, is not a correctly worded phrase or sentence, and is the type of thing you would expect to hear from a young child just learning to use language to communicate his or her ideas.

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