Sherman Alexie and Fredrick Douglass 50 Essays
Compare and Contrast Education is something so sacred to some people but there are many people that take it for granted as well. “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me” by Sherman Alexie and “Learning to Read and Write” by Fredrick Douglass, is similar in many ways. Both of these men were so eager to learn when in the meantime so many people that do have the opportunity are so clueless. People are so clueless that there were others, and still are, that wish they were in a position to easily learn. Both of these men were minorities and grew up many years ago where learning was unusual.
In their situation it was also forbidden in some ways. Although it was tough for both of them, they both felt compelled to take learning into their own hands. Alexie refused to be like others and Douglass did as well. Both of these men went through an astonishing experience to discover what they did. Not only did they both learn that education is something pleasurable, but they learned that it was difficult. Alexie, at three years old, started to teach himself how to read using a Superman comic book. He was quite a prodigy. Native-Americans were stereotypically supposed to fail in the classroom.
Although they are different in so many ways, they are also alike in a many ways, Douglass taught himself and Alexie did the same. Although they taught themselves in different ways, they still did. That’s what makes them alike. Slaves weren’t allowed to read or write and Indians were considered outsiders if they did. Alexie being a Native American and Douglass being a slave, they were both outsiders. Growing up an Indian on a Reservation, not much was expected of Alexie in the knowledge department. “We were Indian children who were expected to be stupid” (p. 17). Alexie was different.
He had a great mind and wanted to put it to use unlike the other Indians. He loved to learn. Alexie was considered an outsider from the Native Americans because he loved to learn. Alexie says, “I was smart. I was arrogant. I was lucky. ” (p. 17). Even if it made Alexie an outsider or not getting along with his peers, he was still inspired. Even if it did mean he would fight with his classmates he did not give up his passion for reading. In his joy, however, there was also pain. Alexie writes, “I read with equal parts joy and desperation. I loved those books, but I also knew that love had only one purpose.
It was trying to save my life” (p. 18) . Sherman Alexie didn’t just want to be considered “a dumb Indian,” like all the other Native Americans. He wanted to be smart and have a better life for himself. He wasn’t going to let the color of his skin or where he was born stop him from excelling in life. Fredrick Douglass was first introduced to reading in writing by his masters mistress. Douglass was an African-American slave. Although his master didn’t let his mistress teach Douglass, he didn’t give up. He was dedicated and took matters into his own hands this mistress gave up on him.
He started learning to write and read. Douglass figured out how to read and write in the most unconventional ways. He traded bread for lessons from schooled poor white boys, and figured out how to write by looking at letters on timber in a ship-yard. Once he had attained those skills, Douglass was met with great desperation. He explains: “As I read and contemplated the subject (of slavery), behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish.
As I writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity … I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt that I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed” (p. 132).
Through his learning, Douglass soon realized that he was not destined to have the lives of the men he read about in books as he would be a slave for life. He wondered if his education had been a curse rather than a gift, and envied the ignorance of his fellow slaves who did not have to feel the same pain that he did. Both of these men realize that the life they thought the had ahead of them wasn’t the outcome. That wasn’t what they wanted. These men both hoped for the same thing. Sherman Alexie and Frederick Douglass’s essays both raise the question: In certain situations, is ignorance really bliss?
Or is it better to be educated and know the truth, rather than live a life in a vacuum devoid of information or any means of achieving access to the world beyond your immediate community? This is a question one must learn themselves. Education can be both pleasurable and painful. For Alexie and Douglass both, education opened their eyes to the harsh reality of the world. And yet they contributed greatly to it through their own writings. Whether or not one wishes to keep this world closed, is up to each individual.
Only you can decide whether or not to take risk of some pain in acquiring knowledge in order to have the opportunity to contribute to the world. While their circumstances, and even their methods of attaining knowledge were different, both of these men were shining examples of what can happen when you follow your passion to learn, and let nothing stand in your way. Both Sherman Alexie and Frederick Douglass’s essays are inspiring and open-minded to read. It’s a realization that many people take education for granted and aren’t often reminded the great lengths many people have gone through to learn the things.
Some people say that “ignorance is bliss. ” Trying to find the answer to “ignorance really bliss” is fascinating. However there are some people who would rather know the truth than to be left in the dark. Works Sited Sherman Alexie’s “The Joy of Writing: Superman and Me” 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. 3rd edition. Samuel Cohen. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011 15-19. Print. Fredrick Douglass’s “Learning To Read and Write” 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. 3rd edition. Samuel Cohen. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011 129-135. Print.