Embodiment in Alexie’s Text

Sherman Alexie uses embodiment in “The Unauthorized Autobiography of Me” to reflect emotional and financial hardships. On pages four and five of the autobiography Alexie repeats the phrase “my hands are bare” three times. By using physical description Alexie brings into focus the hardships faced by a life of poverty. Because of a lack of money to pay electricity bills and buy gloves, Alexie’s physical self suffers. Alexie chooses to portray the hardships of poverty physically in that through this a reflection of emotional response is provided to the reader through reticence. Although he is not directly stating he was emotionally strained by his limited financial freedoms, it is implied by the privileges he was denied and his physical response but most effectively through his repetition of the phrase, showing that this bare and coldness had left a remarkable impression upon him.

Alexie uses embodiment also to emphasize the influence of physical characteristics on memory and experience. In his text the author recognizes that gender and racial differences shape roles one must fulfill and expect within society. These characteristics form an identity within an individual and in their presentation socially. In describing a conflict at a pizza parlor Alexie refers to his companions as “my white friends” (Alexie 7). Because skin color in that era was such a prominent asset in character identification, and can still be seen as that way today, Alexie is socialized to identify other individuals based upon these physical distinctions which can be seen in the text.

Alexie also emphasizes the emotional reaction of being considered a minority or as different by a majority of society based upon aspects one can not control, such as skin color or ethnicity. He describes the feeling of being the only Indian in a room of whites by admitting “this is frightening” while simultaneously implying them as the norm of a diverse culture which emphasizes physical differences by the use of rhetorical questions. These questions ask readers of varying ethnicities and genders of their experiences with others physically different than them. Of course, these encounters are common and the reader feels closer to the author knowing that we have all experienced the same feelings of foreignness and alienation within a society which functions institutionally upon gender and racial inequality. Alexie’s use of embodiment adds to the text through its emphasis on the physical differences between us and how they are in actually a commonality, as well as to reflect a deeper emotional reflection.

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