The Function of Humor in Sherman Alexie’s Flight College

Humor is a powerful tool: it can break barriers, create friendships, establish cultural unity, or undermine/destroy people or organizations. In ‘ethnic’ literature, humor is often used to create a shared space for readers to come together; “humor helps dispel animosity by bringing cultures together, using shared human failings as a common denominator” (Lowe 442). By poking fun at themselves or their traditions, minority authors are able to create a space that is ‘safe’ for discussion - “ethnic jokes delineate the social, geographic, and moral boundaries of a nation or ethnic group, simultaneously reducing ambiguities and clarifying boundaries” (Lowe 440); through humor, it becomes acceptable to ask uncomfortable questions or examine controversial topics. Using humor, minority writers can bring their own culture closer and at the same time, invite other cultures closer; conversely, humor can be used to threaten dominate social structures that are damaging – the way political cartoons or the Paul Ryan at the gym meme are used to discredit politicians, so too can it be used to further or halt any cause.

“Call me Zits” (1) – so opens Sherman Alexie’s novel Flight about a boy, “half Indian, half Irish,” all the way...

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