When the teacher asks what takes place during Easter, a Moroccan student expresses that she has never heard of the Christian celebration. The story is also narrated in 1st person by what is most likely a student from an American background. In order for the reader, who is most likely American, to understand that other cultures do not recognize the same religious traditions, the Polish, Italian, and Moroccan classmates are added to the plot. If the reader is of Christian background, or even American or European, they may have an understanding of what Easter is from a religious perspective.
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Download this Essay in word format. All the students in the class are learning French as a second language, but come from different backgrounds. The author is American, but classmates are from Poland, Morocco, and Italy.
In fact, the Moroccan student is the one that triggers the theme of cultural relativism when she asks the class to explain Easter. Thus forced, most of the first time, to explain a festival that they had so deeply taken for granted, everyone in the class including the teacher struggles to find the words. The students understandably trip over their limited vocabulary and grammar , let alone their lack of historical, theoretical, or religious studies expertise.
Yet even the teacher, with her full command of English, cannot provide the Moroccan student with a definitive or satisfactory response about the meaning of Easter.
Sedaris links the leap of faith in Christian belief to the leap of faith in oneself, the confidence and courage it takes to master a foreign tongue.
The use of the vulgar word underscores the absurdity of the entire exercise, from the struggle of learning a new language from scratch and in a room composed of people from different backgrounds, but also the impossibility of explaining why sensible modern people would believe in a dead and resurrected god that is somehow connected to bells, chocolate, and palm trees.
Vulgarity perfectly parallels absurdity, as the language Sedaris use is a counterpart to the ironic and absurdist story. It is also ironic that Sedaris uses vulgarity given the author is relaying a story about formal language learning.
The students in the class are trying to learn formal French, not slang French, even though what they learn might never be useful in real life given that few people speak in perfectly formal grammar or using formal vocabulary.
Perfect grammar and vocabulary are the linguistic counterparts of the Eucharist or Palm Sunday: empty shells devoid of meaning. The only meaning in language or in religious ritual is in what the believers or the speakers impart. Thus, Sedaris achieves his goal relating semantics, faith, language, and culture through the use of ironic diction.
The length of the text belies the complexity of its content. Although brevity usually entails shortness, the true function of brevity is actually clarity and precision. As McKnight points out, brevity is difficult to define, meaning at once using as few words as possible but also making sure that ones words are as exact and to the point as possible.
Sedaris expertly weaves a tale that does not sacrifice the power of storytelling, dialogue, and nuance while still remaining remarkably short and pithy. Religious texts are notoriously rambling, convoluted, and obscure. The New Testament, from which the original Jesus story arises, also contains contradictory material written and compiled by different authors, all hearsay….
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But as you keep reading, you see something different happening in the story. His classmates were at a different level of what he was, and the way he uses his sense of humor to describe the different way his classmates acted is pretty funny. He talks about the woman from Morocco, who is basically the class showoff. Thanks to the details he uses you are able to visualize even minor things that were happening in this classroom. When he says that the Moroccan woman leaned back in her seat and shouted the answers because basically she was just tired of raising her hand to answer all the questions is an example of the major but at the same time minor details he is including to make this story more appealing to the reader.
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