The Approximate Size of My Tumor

TITLE OF ESSAY: An Analysis of the author’s use of reflection in “The Approximate Size of my Tumor” In the short story “The Approximate Size of my Tumor”, the author uses reflection to give the reader a greater insight into the relationship between Jimmy Many Horses and his wife, Norma. Showing that there are two sides to humor: Jimmy’s viewpoint that humor is used as a copy mechanism and Norma’s viewpoint that there is a time and place for humor and for being serious.

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Jimmy Many Horses retells the history of his relationship with his wife Norma, from their initial meeting at the Powwow Tavern through their marriage including grappling with alcohol addiction and Jimmy’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. After learning of Jimmy’s diagnosis of terminal cancer Norma leaves reacting to Jimmy’s constant use of humor, even in the face of death which angers Norma. The author uses reflection to give us insight on how Norma and Jimmy met, explaining that humor is a part of Jimmy’s character.

Jimmy’s recollection of their relationship includes a classic Indian pickup line, “Listen…if I stole 1,000 horses, I’d give you 501 of them. ” Jimmy’s cavalier humor about his diagnosis enrages Norma to the point she leaves him to go on the powwow circuit, ultimately ending up in Arlee, Montana, with a “second kind of cousin” before returning to be with Jimmy in his last days, citing “making fry bread and helping people die are two things Indians are good at. While in the hospital on his death bed, Jimmy continues to use humor as a coping mechanism. “Humor was an antiseptic that cleaned the deepest of personal wounds. ” Even Jimmy’s description of his tumors is described as the approximate size and shape of a baseball-with faint stitch marks on it.

The story tells how one person may use differing copying mechanisms to cope with their feelings, for Jimmy Many Horses, he uses humor which enables him in the beginning to deny the reality of his terminal diagnosis, resulting in his wife becoming so angered by him not taking this seriously that she leaves as another form of coping and requiring Jimmy to face that there is a time and place where humor is appropriate and when it isn’t. Humor destroys one part of Jimmy’s life while it aids him in coping with another.


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