“I’m A Fool” by Sherwood Anderson takes the reader into the mind of a lying, ambivalent, uneducated and somewhat foolish youth. It is a story of a foolish incident in which he lies to a beautiful girl in attempt to win her love. His plan backfires when he realizes that she likes him for who he is, not the imaginary character whom he claimed himself to be. The theme in “I’m A Fool”, deals with the consequences associated with dishonesty and deceitfulness, and he is able to effectively reveal this theme with the use of dramatic irony.
The narrator believes that stealing, swearing, getting drunk, and bandaging horses is of far greater importance than a high school diploma or university degree. Anderson is implementing irony because what the narrator says is not what the reader knows to be true; the reader knows that these skills are of little or no importance in our society. Another example of irony is when the narrator believes the whiskey and the well-dressed dandy caused him to lie to Lucy Wesson. We know, however, that the narrator lied in fear of rejection.
One aspect of “I’m A Fool” is its incorrect grammar and simple, unexpressive and reoccurring descriptive words. The story is riddled with simple adverbs and injections that are used to describe the narrators emotions such as ‘Gee whizz!’, ‘Peachy’, and ‘gay’. The primitive vocabulary in some ways prevent the reader from receiving an accurate portrayal emotion therefore making the reader guess what the narrator is feeling in certain situations. For instance, “Gee whizz!” is used to describe four seemingly different emotions: enjoyment (paragraph 8), amazement (paragraph 10), regret (paragraph 38), and love (paragraph 55).
Throughout the story, we see the narrator being deceptive and dishonest to others and him self on several occasions. For instance, he shows resentment towards the educated claiming that they ‘don’t know nothing at all,’ however he presents us with a new perspective towards the educated saying that ‘There are some… that are all right.’
His ambivalent attitude is emphasized when he expresses thankfulness towards his mother for teaching him ‘not be noisy and rough like a gang you see around a race track.’ If he was thankful for the morals that he was taught by his mother, one might wonder why he disobeyed his mother and became a swipe in the first place.
The narrator dealt with his emotions in an immature way. Dealing with the self-disappointment resulting from his dishonesty towards Lucy Wesson, he convinces himself that he is worthless and undeserving of his job. Tragically, the narrator does not learn from his consequences.
Most of us know that being dishonest towards other people is wrong and carries a consequence, yet we may deceive ourselves without realizing it. We should understand that before we can be truthful to others, we must be truthful to ourselves.