Analysis of Stereotypes in "Superman and Me" By Sherman Alexie

In his short story “Superman and Me” the author Sherman Alexie suggests that while stereotyping and forcing expectations on people can have positive effects, they are generally very limiting to those affected. The author describes his experience in learning how to read. He taught himself, advancing very quickly and likens his experience to a kindergartener reading “The Grapes of Wrath” while others were struggling through “Dick and Jane. ” However, Alexie writes about being considered an oddity, rather than a prodigy due to his race. He describes the attitude towards people like him: “A smart Indian is a dangerous person, widely feared and ridiculed by Indians and non-Indians alike”. While this stereotyping is likely the cause of Alexie’s persistence, it seems to be the only positive outcome. The negative effects are more widespread, as he goes on to describe his relationships with his peers due to this belief, most of which are not very good. He fights with other peers daily, Indian and non-Indian. He goes on, writing about how other students do not want him to answer the questions asked by non-Indian teachers.

Alexie also describes how most Indian children decide to conform to the standard while they are at school and how they also have negative relationships with those outside the “norm” for Indians. He then writes about the many children that choose to hold back due to this stereotype, therefore preventing them from learning to the best of their ability. Alexie further proves the widespread negative effects of stereotyping as he goes on to describe his experiences and observations gained while interacting with younger generation Indians as an adult. He visits schools to teach Indian kids - who are likely suffering from the same stereotyping he faced - creative writing. He cannot remember any guest teachers visiting the reservation when he was a student, and so he tries to go as often as possible. He describes the reception he receives whenever he goes. There are those who want to succeed and are already writing their own works, who eagerly take the chance to learn more.

Alexie then goes on to describe the other students, those who are “the sullen and already defeated Indian kids who sit in the back rows and ignore him with theatrical precision”. Again, this stereotyping may be the cause for some students to want to break the “norm” and instead work hard to succeed. However, once again, the negative effects are more prominent. Alexie writes about a group of kids who have been “defeated” by these expectations and refuse to break through them, scared to bring attention to themselves. They ignore him, essentially resisting his help, and do not pay attention during his visits, as Alexie describes by writing about their empty notebooks and lack of writing utensils. These expectations have likely been in place since their first day of school, causing many to hold back.

In this short story, Alexie describes the largely negative effects stereotyping has on people, as well as the lack of positive effects. As he proves through his personal experiences, especially for students, stereotyping and forcing expectations often severely limits the true ability and passion contained in a person. For students, that translates into a lack of motivation and the inability to learn to the best of their ability, and that can have a major effect on the rest of their life.

10 October 2020
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