Us and Them
The document is a text, extract from a novel written in 2004 by David Sedaris entitled Dress your family in Corduroy and Denim . This excerpt’s title is Us and Them and indeed it opposes a community’s way of life to the Tomkeys’ way of life as far as television is concerned : that is, the Tomkeys have no television , contrary to the other “normal” , as we may call them ,people . First , we’ll deal with the different points of view given in the excerpt, that is the community’s, the narrator’s and the author’s . Then we’ll focus on the television and its roles.
First, let’s consider the different points of view we’re acquainted with in the extract.
To start with the narrator, he is a small child who lives with his parents as we can read on line 12, and whogoes to school with the neighbor ‘s children (line 34) even if not in the same form. We don’t read about any brother or sister. At the beginning, we learn that he comes from the country and his vision of life in a city is quite amusing since he expects to “witness a murder”. Thanks to this quote, we can also infer this child may be a boy. He is fascinated by his neighbors, especially as they haveno television. He wonders how they can cope without a TV set and so spies on them but yet he never interferes with them: “we never spoke” ( l. 34) , “friendship would have taken away their mystery” ( L.43 and 44). He is shown as a spectator who is so puzzled by the Tomkeys’ odd behavior that he can’t help spying on them to try to solve their mystery.
Then the community has an important role inthis society. Indeed, it has a major influence on the little boy, for example. In fact, gossips seem to be the major way of communication: everything is known and largely commented on. “This was told to us by ..” (l.7) , “you began hearing …” ( l. 16) , “word spread that …” (l. 16) , “it was reported that …” (l. 47) . One of his “mother”s friend especially appears as their informer. Whereas thetwo families live next to each other, they never speak directly to each other and yet, the narrator ‘s family knows a lot about the Tomkeys, such as the boat and its secondhand motor or their father-in-law’s house. Moreover, when they ignore things, they draw conclusions so as to know everything : Maybe they “read” or “listen to the radio” ‘(line 19 -20). In this community, people don’t care aboutknowing each other as long as they know everything about each other and this insane curiosity goes as far as spying on people as for the narrator.
We have to underline yet that this is not the author’s point of view because of the sarcastic and ironical tone we can read so many times on lines 14 and 15 for instance. The author puts a distance between himself and the narrator. The aim of thistext is indeed to show the influence and growing part of television in our current society and the characters are caricatures.
We shall now consider, in our second part, television as it is presented in this extract and among that community.
First, television is an entertainment for most of the neighbors (line 6). It is a way to spend some time. Therefore, people are spectators and allthe more they are not choosy at all as regards the program. Indeed, the narrator’s parents just watch television for the sake of it, no matter what is on as we can read on lines 14 and 15. Because they have no television, the narrator and the whole community wonder what the Tomkeys actually do during their free time and the narrator is convinced they are unhappy and “forced to talk during dinner”(line 26). He believes the Tomkey’s life to be puny and uninteresting.
Then television is shown as a normality, whereas having no TV set is considered as an handicap. For this reason, the narrator blames Mr Tomkey for preventing his family to enjoy television. He describes Mr Tomkey’s wife and children as “innocent” as if they were the victim of a madman. Whereas he calls himself a normal...
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