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A Critical Review of "the Story of My Teeth" by Luiselli, Valerie

Updated on December 10, 2021

In the story of “My Teeth” the author employs various narrative devices in moving the story forward. Among these is the symbolism, theme, characterization, use of metaphor, imagery, hyperbole, personification and the use of similes. For instance, the writer uses the term “Highway”, to characterize the main character, to depict the central role played by him in this story. This term also personifies the character. There is also “teeth”, which is a symbol here implying “power” or “capability”.

The Teeth in “Story of My Teeth” as a metaphor is well illustrated and has been effective in this sense. For instance, the “teeth” is used to directly mean “capability” and does not simply mean the normal teeth. One day, Highway gets to read a book written by a certain author who utilized the proceeds obtained from the sales of his books to replace his “teeth”. This means that the author could have used the proceeds to improve his life in one way or another such as starting a business venture, improving his educational standards or the likes. Seeing the possibility of this, “Highway” saw the necessity of following the same path in order to replace his “teeth”. The narrative also informs that the Highway was born with four “teeth” which when using this contexts can be analyzed to directly imply the four techniques which he had learnt described as hyperbolic, elliptical, circular, and parabolic. After reading a book by a certain author, Highway was tempted to follow the same system in changing his life, a step which enabled him to successfully replace his “teeth”. The work finally pays off when Highway buys Marilyn Monroe's teeth and replaces them with his old chompers. He says that

“Some weeks after the implantation, I was unable to get the grin from my face”

This shows that the step was eventually successful

The central theme of Luiselli’s narrative is the essence of education in transforming one’s life. In this perspective, the author employs various objects to portray these aspects as education, learning and a transformation as a result of acquiring knowledge and skills. Among these objects include but not limited to dental clinic in the city of Mexico, the mouth where the teeth are transplanted into, and auctioneering.

“As soon as the “Highway” Gustavo Sanchez reaches Mexico from Cuba , he visits one of the best dental clinics in the city of Mexico where he gets the teeth acquired from the Venus transplanted into his mouth” (22).

“After some weeks, he walks around the city of Mexico while smiling because he was now looking much better in reflection and that he had been successful for this venture which had made him believe that his life had been a poem” (41).

“as once articulated by the great Quintilian, through use of hyperbolics, I could be able to restore the value of an object by simply surpassing the truth” (53)

“This implies that I would base my narrations on facts and thus avoid unnecessary exaggerations or illuminations as I had occasionally done” (54)

“This narrative provides a dynamic space for all readers and interpretation while shifting the context and meaning of the novel” (153).

“I was the gatekeeper of a collection of objects of real truth and beauty and truth, though I was barred from accessing the art itself” (24)

From this quotes, it is apparent that the education which the Highway was subjected to actually led to his enlightenment as well as opening of opportunities. For instance, prior to getting his teeth replaced, he informs us that he worked at the factory site as a guard and he was denied access to the collection of objects which he was guarding. However, upon receiving this education (replacement of teeth) he would do a number of things which he previously did not do for example telling of stories based on facts and being able to restore an object’s value. In particular, the story on he improved his story telling style was more effectively in showcasing the value of education since it emphasizes on the transformative power of learning. Therefore, these quotes effectively showcase the essence of education in transforming life through enlightenment.


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