I’m a Fool, by Sherwood Anderson

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I’m a Fool – Sherwood Anderson Question 1 Anderson tells the story, “I’m a Fool”, through the voice of its main character – the swipe. The narrator’s voice enhances the story because his language reinforces his character. The swipe says that he “got [his] education”, not at college, but though working in the stables, traveling with Burt, and going to horse races. When he refers to people as “dudes” (83) and uses phrases such as “most bitterest” (81), he confirms that fact. He uses improper grammar and many slang expressions; his language shows that he is uneducated and disadvantaged. The narrator calls himself a fool for trying to impress Miss Wessen; his lack of foresight caused him to make himself into someone richer and more important than he really is. The swipe’s limitations of understanding and comprehension are revealed through his incoherent, long-winded narration. The swipe’s story, combined with the way in which he tells it, reveals him to be an uneducated, immature person. The narration provides a direct presentation of the character of the swipe; he blatantly labels himself as an uneducated “fool” (89). The narrative voice provides an indirect presentation of the swipe; readers understand him through his language and through processes. Question 2 The swipe is ambivalent in his attitude regarding education and social distinctions. At first, the swipe wants nothing to do with education. He believes that the “fellows” who “go to high schools and college…don’t know nothing at all” (82). The swipe got his education at the stables, the races, and the saloons; he does not care to be properly educated. The swipe also disregards social distinctions. He detests people who dress up to “put on…airs” (83). He looks down on people who don’t steal, drink, or swear. When he meets the Wessens and Miss Woodbury, the swipe’s views are changed. He describes Wilbur Wessen as a “nice guy” and the “kind maybe that goes to college” (84). Miss Elinor Wessen is “the nicest girl” who “could talk proper grammar” (84). The swipe begins to admire these educated people. The swipe begins to wish that he were more like the Wessens than like those he formerly associated with. During dinner, he is so glad that his mother “made [him] learn to eat with a fork at the table” and that he is not “noisy and rough like a gang you see around a racetrack” (88). The swipe begins to appreciate his education and have a regard for social distinctions.

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