Sample English Argumentative Essay on Flight Pattern: Representing the Norm, Not the Exception

Flight Pattern by Sherman Alexie offers a unique insight into a post 9/11 American society particularly regarding the fear and paranoia in the society. It does so through the eyes of the two main characters, William and Fekadu, who meet through chance as William is travelling to Chicago and Fekadu is carrying out his daily routine as a Taxi driver. However, Sherman does not make it as black and white as would be expected of a short story exploring such themes. He employs humor through William’s outrageously paranoid and oddly humorous private speech. He also explores other themes regarding the cultural bubble and isolation that most Americans are happy to live within or are oblivious of and its dominance in their lives. Still in the same note, double standards regarding gender, racial profiling and stereotyping are also dominant themes that Sherman illustrates. However, the themes and thoughts of both William and Fekadu in Flight Pattern can also be viewed as an exception rather than the norm as far as stereotyping, and cultural isolation is concerned. This essay however argues that Flight Pattern depicts the norm in the American society post the 9/11 catastrophe as far as three main themes of cultural differences and isolation, racial profiling and stereotyping, and fear are concerned.

The cultural theme is evident in Flight Pattern and depicts cultural isolation, and conflict. At the beginning of the narration, we learn that William is a Spokane Indian by heritage. However, his fight with his cultural heritage is evident in his private speech when his alarm starts by belting out the songs of Patsy Cline and Donna Fargo (Alexie 54). What ensues is William’s rant to himself questioning his own heritage. He questions why he knows so many American details and quests for more. Though he admits that he didn’t want to chose between “Ernie Hemingway and the Spokane tribal elders”, it is clear that he is conflicted. Further, when he states through thought that he would trade in 206 Spokane Indians and by extension his cultural heritage for Freddy Fender song “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” to be happy, the cultural conflict becomes clear (Alexie 54). Although it is not clear whether he being a Spokane Indian informs his abstinence from smoking, drinking, and consumption of processed sugar, it is ironical that William chooses to abide by these cultural inhibitions yet consume so much more of the American culture in so many other ways. This is the case with so many Americans of different cultural heritages who are conflicted with cultural identity. On one hand, they have to conform to society’s view of their culture while on the other hand they feel more comfortable living out other cultures besides their own.

The racial profiling and stereotyping element in Flight Pattern is arguably the most dominant and accurate theme as far as the reality in the real American society is concerned. Throughout the story, William nonchalantly stereotypes people because of the events of 9/11 (Alexie 57). The author states, “William always scanned the airports and airplanes for little brown guys”. This clearly depicts the stereotype of Arabs and their association with terrorism. Additionally, when William fantasizes about his life as a single man, he states, “Maybe he’d have one-night stands with a long series of traveling saleswomen, all of them thousands of miles away from husbands and children who kept looking up “feminism” in the dictionary” (Alexie 58). This stereotypes independent businesswomen as feminists. Finally, when he meets Fekadu, an African American man with a pronounced scar, he assumes the scar to be a result of his violent lifestyle, as do so many people according to his story. Further, the story is filled with instances of stereotyping and racial profiling behavior including when William silently jokes about moving into an African American neighborhood and effectively raising property prices (60). This stereotypical behavior is accurate in today’s society especially when considering major debate issues such as police shootings, increased feminists lobby groups, and the recent political divide regarding immigrants.

Finally, fear and paranoia in the society is evidently depicted in Flight Pattern. Even without the background of 9/11, William lives in constant fear of his family being attacked whenever he is away on business (Alexie 58). Fekadu on the other hand lives in constant fear of his life back in Ethiopia and admits that even though things have become more democratic, he is afraid to go back to his home country (Alexie 60). Though they may seem like irrational fears, these instances represent what every person in society goes through. Everyone has some kind of insecurity and fear they fight in their lives. However, to a larger extent, it gives a glimpse of the kind of fear that engulfed people after 9/11 especially for those who have to travel through air regularly.

In conclusion, Flight Pattern is an accurate though fictitious depiction of the American Society post 9/11. Although, its depiction of the society touches on numerous factors and themes, the main areas of comparison are those of cultural differences and isolation, racial profiling and stereotyping, and fear. Consequently, Flight Pattern represents the norm in society rather than the exception.

Works Cited

Alexie, Sherman. Ten Little Indians. Grove Press, 2004.