A Journey to Literacy in Superman and Me by Sherman Alexie

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 633 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: May 14, 2021

Words: 633|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: May 14, 2021

Throughout history, reading has played an important role within every society. Nowadays, many if not all modern educators often stress the importance of reading in today’s classrooms. Every child from the 1st grade to the 12th grade is taught that to be a functional adult one must know how to read and write proficiently. However, there are cases wherein some children do not get a proper education. In Sherman Alexie’s essay “Superman and Me” he details his upbringing and his path to literacy through his self-motivation and his determination to make something of himself. Alexie lived in a world where kids are expected to be stupid in the classroom and duck their heads submissively. Nevertheless, despite all odds, Alexie was able to learn and is now very determined that teaching himself how to read saved his life.

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In his essay, Alexie compares his experience with the expectations of most Native American students, who were expected to not have any interest in school or education at all. He intended to show how difficult it was for him to learn how to read in an environment that discouraged kids like him from doing so. Using his own story, he humanizes himself and his fellow Indians to allow the readers to sympathize with their struggle. In the sixth paragraph, he reveals the impact that racism and cultural expectations had on his desire to learn, 'they wanted me to stay quiet when the non-Indian teacher asked for answers, for volunteers, for help. We were Indian children who were expected to be stupid'. Throughout his essay, Alexie paints a picture of those living on his reservation as being surrounded by impenetrable walls on all sides; and just outside those walls are the tools needed for success: literacy and higher education.

Alexie's purpose throughout the essay is to emphasize that literacy and education are the superpowers capable of opening the doors of opportunity and breaking down walls of oppression; he achieves this using figurative language. One specific technique that Alexie uses to develop his argument is a metaphor. Alexie compares Superman breaking down the door to his struggle to break down the door of illiteracy. However, through this metaphor, Alexie implies that for people growing up on reservations, it often takes the superpowers and strength of Superman to become well educated by the outside world’s standards. The allusion to Superman, a fictional character with great power, illustrates how literacy and education could seem impossible for Indian Reservation children. At the end of the essay, Alexie reflects that for some Indians, “the door holds”; they are unable to experience the liberation and opportunity of education and thus remain in the cycle of oppression and inequality that they were born into.

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Literacy was a means to survive, and even though he had become special, Alexie's real goal was to change Indian society. In the last paragraph, as a grown man, Alexie reacts to being one of the first guest teachers on the reservation. Indian kids had 'crowded the classroom... writing their poems, short stories, novels'; his presence and story had inspired and set an example. He questions as to where these teachers were when he was a child, intensifying the idea that yes, he is different, first one to ever guest lecture on an Indian reservation. As the essay comes to its conclusion, the special, talented Alexie tries to show these Indian children the path he took yet is ultimately unsuccessful. Though he has come all this way through literacy, he is unable to use it to change his culture. At the end of the last paragraph, resorting back to “I statement”, Alexie gathers that even though it’s not his goal, he is, and will always be, different from his Indian culture.

Works Cited:

  1. Cohen, Samuel. 50 Essays: a Portable Anthology. Bedford BKS St Martins, 2019.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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A Journey To Literacy In Superman And Me By Sherman Alexie. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from
“A Journey To Literacy In Superman And Me By Sherman Alexie.” GradesFixer, 14 May 2021,
A Journey To Literacy In Superman And Me By Sherman Alexie. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 May 2024].
A Journey To Literacy In Superman And Me By Sherman Alexie [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 May 14 [cited 2024 May 25]. Available from:
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