Gary Shteyngart Little Failure Analysis

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Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart is a memoir about the author’s life, presenting a narrative of adversity and assimilation, invoking the tragedies and indignities of his past as he struggles to construct his new American identity. Shteyngart and his family emigrate to New York when he is seven years old, in part of a Jimmy Carter brokered trade deal with Soviet Russia. After arriving in New York, Shteyngart settles in Little Neck, Queens and attends The Solomon Schaefter School of Queens. As Gary’s life transforms through different phases, he views his identity differently. Once Gary arrives in America, he attempts to create an American identity, but his perception of it continues to evolve, evoking his ambivalent feelings towards his American-Russian…show more content…
While attending SSSQ, Gary says, “I lose my Russian accent. I can, in theory, walk up to a girl” (179). Still maturing, Gary believes that to be a true American he must remove his Russian accent and sound more like his classmates. More importantly, he feels he must change his speech to interact with an American girl, displaying his insecurities about his identity and his belief that he must have the inherent qualities of an American to be loved. Gary realizes his Russian qualities interfere with his desired social assimilation; therefore, he yearns to remove them from his identity. Once Gary starts writing books to read to the class, he says, “I need... more access to popular culture...But what I really need is access to a television set” (151). Watching fiction television shows is an American cultural phenomenon, so Gary’s fascination with popular culture displays his effort to transform into an American. Since Gary arrives in America at a young age, his perception of a typical American is not sophisticated, and many of the qualities he attempts to develop himself appear youthful. However, they are meaningful and symbolic, commencing transformation in his…show more content…
At SSSQ, while Gary reads a book, The Chalenge, he has written to impress his classmates, he says, “Am I scared? No. I am Eager. Eager to begin my life” (150). Gary continues to struggle to find his American identity, so he uses storytelling as a way to fit in with the American kids. After finally “moving the children away from [his] Russianness and towards storytelling”, he feels he has completely assimilated into American society (151). As he is reading the book to the class, he reflects, “I am hearing a different language come out of my mouth...I am speaking...with my strange new English voice” (150). Symbolically, after socially assimilating into an American, his voice sounds more English, displaying physical assimilation, making him even more American. Writing is a turning point in Gary’s life because he uses it to convey his thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Moreover, as Gary matures and continues to write, he learns more about his complex identity. Notably, Gary writes books during different parts of his life, representing his identity at that time. When he is young, he writes fictional novels, attempting to depict a mythical hero, who he aspired to be. As he grows older, he focuses his books on Russia, his homeland, hoping to reconnect with his former life he abandoned after emigrating. In his memoir, he uses humor, satire, and
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