“Good People” Analysis: Sheri Fisher and the Magnitude of Choice
Humans engage in multitudes of decisions and choices over the course of their lives. Most choices are frivolous, while others are critical. In David Foster Wallace’s “Good People”, Sheri Fisher, a young, polished and successful Christian lady, deals with the repercussions of a choice made with her boyfriend. She, aware that her choice has magnitude, makes a decision. Although onerous, this decision will change the couple’s lives forever. The gravity of said choice causes strife and confusion between her and Lane A. Dean Jr. Despite Sheri being a secondary character, through character development and analysis, the title “Good People” proves to suit her far more than the alternative main character, Lane.
Sheri is first mentioned in the plot when Lane reminisces on when they first interacted. “They’d gone to different high schools but the same junior college, where they had met in campus ministries” (254). Lane was drawn to her clean, fresh disposition. Prior to Sheri and Lane’s relationship, her Christian based actions and the way she carries herself appeals to the people she meets throughout her life. She is serious about her future, works hard, and studies harder. She is on the challenging path to become a nurse, but the reward of helping others is the light at the end of the tunnel for her.
Lane admires her determination and diligence; this is what catches his attention in the first place. He likes her for her beauty and grace, but surface level attraction seems to be all it was. She is kind, generous, and caring, and even Lane’s own mother considers her down to earth. “She was serious in her faith and values in a way that Lane had liked…” (255). She cares deeply about her relationship with Christ and keeps her morals in check. It is not until later that her new relationship with Lane will force her to make a tough choice.
Even from the start, Sheri Fisher shows mental toughness. Something obviously wrong has happened between the story’s couple; the attitude between the two is certainly unclear. “Their postures on the picnic table were both the same forward kind with their shoulders rounded and elbows on their knees. In this position the girl rocked slightly and once put her face in her hands, but she was not crying” (Wallace 254). This character description creates the conclusion that the situation is causing grief in the relationship, and instead of communicating about the issue, there is only deafening silence.
Sheri is older than Lane and is obviously more mature than him in many ways. The story is from Lane’s perspective, and it is revealed throughout the writing that he is emotionally unstable as he describes his emotions and the events happening around the couple as they attempt to discuss the issue. Sheri is talked about multiple times, but her name remains unknown for a majority of the story. However, the lack of a name allows for her character to ring loud enough to stand out. She never cries, never complains, and never gets angry even though she has reason to be. This may be a result of her morals, as the story mentions the two are Christian. Lane struggles to keep a clear mind, but Sheri continues to calmly focus on the decision that will change their lives forever.
Throughout the story, Lane consistently points out that he is consumed by an overwhelming sense of guilt for his actions. He describes having pity over Sheri. Little does he know; she is completely in tune with his feelings. She does not reveal to him her awareness of his obvious feelings and continues to stay independent on the issue. Between the fear of judgement alongside the fabricated support from her boyfriend, Sheri faces what is considered to be a midlife crisis. It is so easy to be selfish in the situation she is in, but she decides for herself that it is the right thing to do.
Despite judgement from friends and family that may take place, despite the church looking down on her for sinning, despite losing Lane as a boyfriend, she is doing what she thinks is right. She transforms from a shut down, shocked and confused girl, to a confident one. Lane’s eyes are opened to the fact that she holds true to her values more than she holds true to him. Lane states, “She will carry this, and have it, and love it…” (258). Not only does she realize that Lane does not love her, but she accepts that and allows him the opportunity to leave.
It is revealed toward the end, if not already assumed by the reader, that the complication at hand is an unwanted pregnancy. The story is written from Lane’s perspective, but the character that developed and changed the most was Sheri Fisher. Even from the opening of the plot, she stands out when she keeps her cool all the while Lane seems to be losing his mind. Although Lane deals with a lot of internal confliction, Sheri pulls her weight in the story by expressing her maturity. The tough choice to be selfless in such a situation makes Sheri all the more worthy of being called a good person. Through character analysis, the main character, Lane A. Dean, Jr., falls short on the development scale; it is evident that it is Sheri Fisher’s actions and attitude fully embody the title of David Foster Wallace’s fiction, “Good People”.
Wallace, David. “Good People.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, edited by
Kelly J. Mays, 12th ed., W.W. Norton, 2016, pp. 253-258.