Unexpected Company: Extraneous Console Within Himself

The concept of being an outsider suggests that an outsider would be isolated and detached from their surroundings. This idea is contradicted in “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris, “Homeschool Insider: The Fighting Pterodactyls” by Ron Carlson, and “Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner, where each protagonist is brought closer to themselves or others through the experience of being an outsider. The protagonist in “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris is a 41-year-old exchange student studying in France.

He struggles with the language barrier in addition to being significantly older than the majority of his peers. His teacher is a cruel, strict woman who divides her students further by verbally and physically abusing them due to her lack of mercy for mistakes.

In “Homeschool Insider: The Fighting Pterodactyls” by Ron Carlson, a young girl and her sister begin to be homeschooled. They struggle with the sudden differences between regular school and being homeschooled. Due to this, they begin to attempt to incorporate aspects of regular school into their homeschooling experience.

In “Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner, the narrator recounts his personal experiences with dumpster diving. He gives an informative view on the positives and negatives of this situation. He even mentions how this struggle has taught him more about the extremely rich and extremely poor. He also provides information on how this ordeal caused him to become closer and more in touch with himself. All of these stories demonstrate how being an outsider might end up beneficial in ways never before imagined.

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Therefore, the concept of an outsider can actually create a united force by utilizing outsider’s shared experiences. The teacher in “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris created outsiders by both verbally and physically abusing her pupils. On the first day, she asked her students questions which were setting them up to fail. This caused her students to begin to fear and overthink their answers, even though “they were limited in terms of vocabulary[] and this made them seem less than sophisticated” (Sedaris 3). This observation from the protagonist shows the extent of these peer’s understanding of each other’s struggles. This language barrier might of been thought to separate these students due to their diverse backgrounds, but the teachers constant abuse united them through understanding. When exploring the streets of France, the protagonist finds that this fear of his teacher follows him outside of the classroom.

He reflects on how “no matter how hard [he] trie[s], there was no escaping the feeling of terror [he feels] whenever anyone ask[s him] a question”. This caused him to find comfort in working as a cashier, as he claims no one in France will ask even a clerk the simplest questions (Sedaris 5). This realization caused the protagonist to further draw strength from his peers as others would not be able to comprehend this odd situation. A challenge is presented by trying to explain his position to others that don’t understand the situation. His teacher constantly tormented her students to the point where they were terrified of any situation similar to the one presented in the classroom. They came to a new country in hope of learning, and where all faced with abuse and an overall unhealthy learning environment. This creates harmony between him and his classmates by eliminating complicated attempts of explanation to go straight to comforting and helping each other.

While at the school, one of his classmates reveal how “sometimes [he/she] cr[ies] alone at night”, and another responds that “this is common” and encourages the former to “be strong” in hope that “someday [he/she will] talk pretty” (Sedaris 5). The teacher’s infliction of fear upon her pupils unite them. They use their common experiences in the classroom to encourage each other to not give up. The concept of outsiders uniting among themselves is demonstrated through these diverse people, divided by age, language, etc, helping each other in order to overcome their shared fear. It is through all of these moments that the protagonist learns to find comfort in his fellow outsiders. In “Homeschool Insider: The Fighting Pterodactyls” by Ron Carlson, the protagonist and her family, especially her sister, are detached from others due to their differences in schooling. The protagonist and her sister realize this and attempts to fix this by incorporating aspects similar to regular school into their homeschooling experience.

As soon as it was determined that the protagonist and her sister, Joylene, would be homeschooled, the protagonist announced that their “first challenge was [to] select a mascot”, which her and Joylene decided would be the “Fighting Pterodactyls”. They notice how they are being raised differently and will slowly drift from their so called “normal” counterparts. This causes them to work together in order to try and recreate the “normal” experience as closely as possible. While unitig her and Joylene, homeschooling also brought the protagonist closer to Uncle Todd. Uncle Todd has lived at home with her family “for the two years that he’s been under house arrest”. Uncle Todd is secluded from others in that most criminals are looked down upon in society. Uncle Todd being on house arrest obliges him to spend time with the rest of his family who are also confirmed to their house.

The notion of them all being so contrasting from society that they are circumscribed to their home ends up coalescing them. By the spring semester the protagonist’s brother moves back home from Cornell. Dean returns home with claims of how “homeschool was a natural for him” and how he “was looking for a smaller school anyways”. Dean being homeschooled as a kid caused a conflict at college that was so essential that he needed to move back home in order to avoid it. Being homeschooled separated him from other kids at Cornell who had previously attended regular school. These divisions were so deep that he was forced to return home. However, Dean returning home brought him closer to the rest of his family. He was constantly with them again, and the time they were forced to spend together strengthened their family unit.

Each individual family member’s isolation from society caused them to all live and study together, uniting them. As dysfunctional as they are, each individual being an outsider in their own way further fused the family as a whole. The protagonist in “Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner is forced to reflect upon himself by contemplating his situation. He discusses how he “hardly pick[s] up a thing without envisioning the time [he] will cast it away”. This practice demonstrates how having minimal things has taught the protagonist to appreciate what he does have more than ever before. This realization brings the protagonist closer to another outsider- himself. However unconventional, this seperation from society generated a fusing of the protagonist’s values before and after he truly transitioned to the lifestyle of dumpster diving.

This sense of self acceptance while experiencing what most of society considers the lowest possible point of one’s life is exceptional. The protagonist further demonstrates his contentedness by saying his sense of value is “an attitude [he believes he] share[s] with the very wealthy- [they] both know there is plenty more where whatever [they] have came from”. In order to believe that one has ideals in common with the wealthy, especially at the protagonist’s state, one must have an extreme sense of fulfilment. This further demonstrates how the protagonist became completely at peace with himself through the concept of being an outsider. The protagonist correlates himself to the wealthy once again by contemplating how he “feels sorry for… the rat race millions [between the very wealthy and the very poor]”. The middle class that the protagonist pities so actually pities his state of life as well.

The middle class pities that the protagonist doesn’t have tangible things and that he lives off of other people’s leftovers. However, the protagonist pities the extent of the middle classes’ materialistic values and how little they care for the true use of each and every object. This ironic statement of the poorest of the poor pitying the well-off establishes the protagonists’ appeasement with himself. All in all, this integration of the protagonists values demonstrate how utilizing experiences can unite one with themselves. Much of the ideals present in these protagonist’s lives are demonstrated in society today. Take Oprah for an example- she had a hard journey to get to where she is today. Oprah herself was an outsider, whether it was due to her race or her gender or her class.

However, Oprah’s isolation ended up encouraging many to change their lives like she did hers. Oprah grew up poor and on a farm and is now living a completely different life as a billionaire. She is unapologetically herself on screen, inspiring others to do the same in their own lives. Oprah once received a letter from a fan informing her about how “watching [Oprah] be [herself] everyday makes [the fan] want to be more of [her]self” (Keyes 1). She gave confidence to people secluded due to their lack thereof, and united thousands of these people through the common experience of watching her show. The impact Oprah left was on a much larger scale than the three protagonists, but the way it impacted and united outsiders was all the same.

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Unexpected Company: Extraneous Console Within Himself. (2021, Dec 21). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/unexpected-company-extraneous-console-within-himself/

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