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Character Analysis in Sherwood Anderson’s “I’m A Fool”

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The character of the swipe in Sherwood Anderson’s “I’m A Fool” reminds the reader of J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield — a slightly unschooled youth seeking greatness through ordinary means. Headstrong and determined to make something of himself, Anderson’s swipe could be any one of a million young men throughout the world. Driven by his desire to make himself feel like he has value, the swipe continually demonstrates a great deal of motivation. Due to the swipe’s consistency of character, one can easily explain his actions and predict those which he might make. Through close examination of the character’s plausibility, by demonstrating his consistency, and by evaluating his motivation, one can clearly see the depth of the swipe in Sherwood Anderson’s “I’m A Fool.”

Just as one can find boys like Holden Caulfield almost anywhere; the swipe’s easy believability comes from the commonness of his character. Anderson’s swipe seeks not to achieve worldly greatness but to make himself believe that he has already achieved everything he will ever need. The mindset of perceived perfection predominates the thinking of many teenagers, quite especially males. However his lack of desire to further himself comes also from the belief that he does not have the mental capacity to become greater. The swipe’s easy going nature and utterly common place attitude endears him to the reader, thus making his character easily believable and someone the reader can relate to.

Anderson’s swipe desires to have the people around him see him as more than just a common swipe. Because of this, the reader can easily see his actions directly result from his desire to make himself appear more important, they result from an inferiority complex. The swipe’s disdain of the man with the Windsor tie and his actions towards him give obvious example of his attempts at posturing and self assurance of superiority. His philosophy of putting up a good front shows the reader his subconscious feelings of inadequacy. The model for the swipe’s motivation comes from his actions presented in the text as well as the beliefs he shares with the reader.

Due to the swipe’s uncomplicated character, one can easily see consistency in his thoughts and actions. Due to his simplicity, his actions require little to no explanation for them to fit the character of the swipe. His disdain of people who he sees as “putting on airs” fits well with his character and remains constant throughout the story. One can see another such example of his consistency of character in his choice of Burt as a friend; this choice demonstrates his efforts to make himself appear superior. The swipes constant drive to forward himself and his unchanging philosophy of life give him a consistency that makes him appear very real to the reader.

Sherwood Anderson’s swipe displays a consistency of action, a plausibility of character, and a clearly defined motivation that gives him depth of character. Because of the swipe’s commonplace desires, thoughts, and actions, the reader finds it easy to relate to him and believe in him. The reader comes to understand the swipe’s motivation by examining his actions as well as his beliefs revealed through the text by the author. Because all of the swipe’s actions stay true to character, the reader notices this consistency, and it makes the swipe a more believable character. As Albert Einstein once said, “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”

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