The Important Life Lessons in the Short Story Cyclops by David Sedaris

All parents have tricks up their sleeves that they use to teach their children important life lessons. David Sedaris, in his short story “Cyclops”, tells of his father's method of teaching him and his siblings to be careful in life. His father used made up stories about his own childhood to teach his children to be wary of the world around them. Not only did the kids learn to be wary, but they also became filled with fear. This caused Sedaris to behave in a manner that lead him to live his young life without risk.

As Sedaris got older and started to understand more about his father, he wrote "Cyclops". In this short story, Sedaris uses his tone and structure to tell a story that he believes we all need to hear. Sedaris' use of a humorous and dramatic tone in “Cyclops" is one of characteristics that makes it so appealing. The usage of exaggerated and funny language holds the reader's attention.

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A good example of this takes place right after young Sedaris’ mother hits a cat with her car. Sedaris and his mother get out of the car to check on the cat and the cat tells them ““You killed me...Here I had so much to live for but now it's over, my whole life wiped out just like that”” (50). Sedaris' decision to give the cat dialogue catches the reader off guard in an amusing way.

Along with the funny tone, Sedaris also uses dramatically graphic details. He tends to use them more so when his father is telling a story.

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Such as when his father told him a story about what happened when a friend of his mowed the lawn. Supposedly, the law mower cut off his foot and this led to young Sedaris picturing a “ jumping into his car and pressing on the accelerator with his bloody stump, a warm foot settled in his lap like a sleeping puppy” (49). This use of gory detail draws the reader's attention to the important part of the story, which is the father. Although his tone in his story is unique, his structure follows the same pattern that many others do.

It goes in the order of setup, conflict, climax, and resolution. Sedaris sets up his story in the first few pages by sharing a few introductory stories from his childhood. He first tells of a story that his father told him where his best friend went blind in one eye because he accidentally shot him with a BB gun. Then, after young Sedaris avoided using BB guns, his “...sister Tiffany stabbed [him] in the eye with a freshly sharpened pencil” (47). He connects these two stories because, to him as a boy, it showed that his dad was right to be careful all the time. This gives the reader an idea of what the story will be about. From there, he moves on to the conflict of the story, which is how his dad changed his life with every story he told. Each time his dad told a story, Sedaris developed a new fear that he would do just about anything possible to keep himself safe from.

Because of the aforementioned lawn mower story, he "mowed the lawn wearing long pants, knee-high boots, a football helmet, and a pair of goggles," and that was only after he combed through the yard "as if it were mined" (49). This presumably happened many times in Sedaris’ young life and that hurt his childhood. Instead of running around fearless like most children, he was living his life hiding behind the horrible ‘what ifs'. Toward the end, the story finally climaxes when Sedaris’ mom hits the cat with her car. This part of story has the more detail than any of the other part so far. It also has the most time spent on it. Right after the climax, the resolution occurs when Sedaris is grown up and living in New York. One day, he passed through the town where his dad's friend with one blind eye lives. He calls up his dad to talk about the man, but his dad had no idea what Sedaris was talking about. His dad told him that that guy was born that way and Sedaris realized that his dad had made all of those stories up. When he later meets up with his dad, he comes to a further realization that he was raised by a hypocrite because his father says to him that "[n]ot a one of you has got so much as a teaspoon of gumption.

I don't know where you got it from, but in the end, it's going to kill you” (52) Sedaris shared this story to show that overprotective parents, such as his father, can do more harm than good. Even though they typically mean well and just want to keep their children safe, they often are instilling fear in their children. By doing this, they are damaging their child and setting them up for a messed up life. He also tells this story to show that even parents can be hypocritical. Parents should be able to practice whatever it is they are preaching. If they are teaching their kids something, it should be reasonable enough that they do it, too. “Cyclops” by David Sedaris is full of great life lessons, humorous anecdotes, and well thought out writing. He does an excellent job of using his writing tone to guide the reader through the structure of his short story. He does an equally, if not better, job of carrying the reader through the story with him and giving them the same realizations he was having at the time. Although much of “Cyclops” is not particularly relatable to most, the message about parents that it gives most certainly is.

Updated: Oct 27, 2022
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The Important Life Lessons in the Short Story Cyclops by David Sedaris. (2022, Oct 27). Retrieved from

The Important Life Lessons in the Short Story Cyclops by David Sedaris essay
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