“Who I am is just the habit of what I always was, and who I’ll be is the result” (148). I have to say when I read this line in “I’m a mad dog biting myself for sympathy” (by Louise Erdrich in the “Seagull Reader”) I had to stop. What a powerful sentence. In just the first few words of the story, the author manages to portray the exact theme. Everything in our past is carried with us into our futures and plays a part in who we are and what choices we will make.
The narrator in this story is in a storm of feeling sorry for himself. His girlfriend has left him as he says she lives with an older man now and that now “she will know things and he will still be same person that I was the year before,” and he seems disconnected with his parents since he describes not being able to imagine their faces (153). In the depths of his loneliness he is desperate for someone to pay attention. So, he steals a ridiculous stuffed toucan for his ex-girlfriend and steals a car. Only to discover there’s a newborn baby in the back seat. Evading the police he finds himself in the middle of a snowstorm and must therefore abandoned the car, and the child, in order to rescue himself.
This was one of those stories for me that when you read it at first you hate it, probably because I have kids and anything having to do with children being harmed makes my stomach roll. However, after you know the baby turns out ok, your free to re-read and freely analyze what’s going on. The funny thing about having the baby in the story is that all the while he’s talking and explaining what’s going on, but we don’t care. All the reader can focus on is that innocent baby in the back, but I don’t think this is a mistake. Reason being, that the story is in actuality about the infant. To prove the point of the first line he’s telling us that even this event that happened to the baby when it was but three weeks old, regardless of the fact that it was horrendous, will be a part of him forever. As the narrator puts it; “I know I’ll always be inside him, cold and black, about the size of a coin, maybe, something he touches against and skids”(154). No matter how young we are, or how small a memory, they play a part in our future.