“Of My Friend Hector and My Achilles Heel” by Michael T Kaufman

“Models for Writers: Short Essays for Composition” by Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz, University of Vermont, was obviously written for classroom purposes and I have the ninth edition published in 2007.  I’m not sure what level it was for, surely it was way after I was in school, but I found the essays to be worth reading with interesting points all writers could benefit from.  Therefore, I will review of each essay, not for the value of homework, but for its value to me as a writer.

The author traces his relationship with his friend, Hector, from when they first met to adulthood.  At first, they were the best of friends.  Then, when the children went to school, the author was placed in an advanced class for “intellectually gifted children” while his friend was not.  In high school, the author went to a special or what we would call a magnet school while his friend did not.  When the author saw his friend again, now married with children at a young age when he was still single.  The author became a reporter and saw his friend on the subway wearing a knitted watch cap so he assumed he worked as a longshoreman.  He didn’t bother to talk to his old friend to find out how he was doing—he pretended not to see him and vice versa.  Years later, the author found out his friend was a Broadway actor who was taking over a lead role in a play.  He was shocked.

As the author examined his relationship or lack thereof, he realized that the stereotype he had established when they first went to school persisted.  The author was placed in a class for “intellectually gifted children” when his friend was not.  Although the author felt guilty about it, he couldn’t overcome it and never made contact with his friend again.

Stereotypes—we all do it whether we know it or not.  How does it appear in your writing?  Do you put a stocking cap on a character to make him a longshoreman?  How does it affect his interactions?  Can you use it to your advantage?  Of course you can!  In my novels, my main character is an assassin and she gets by because no one in her society believes that a woman could be one.  The stereotype of a woman is to her advantage.

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