Love Is a Fallacy by Max Schulman’s

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Love Is a Fallacy by Max Schulman is one of the cleverest short stories ever published. This story is centered on three characters: Petey Burch, Polly Espy, and the narrator. Petey Burch and the writer are college roommates who have a lot in common. In contrast to Peter Burch, the narrator is a bright university student who presents himself in the first paragraph as follows: "Cool was I and logical... I was sharp, calculated, perspicacious, acute, and astute. My brain was as powerful as a dynamo, precise as a chemist's scales, as penetrating as a scalpel. And – think of it! – I only eighteen" (Schulman 1). Petey Burch according to the narrator is emotional, dense, impressionable, and a faddist who falls into every craze that comes along. Considering this two characters as well as the third character, Polly Espy, I seek to find out why love is a fallacy.

Love or Success

In the tale, Petey and the narrator are close roommates, and one afternoon Petey says that he will give everything for a raccoon coat. The narrator knowing how dump his roommate realizes that he can benefit from his friend's new obsession. He, therefore, offers Petey the raccoon coat to have the privilege of dating Petey's beautiful girlfriend, Polly Espy. Petey crazes for new things and careless if he lost all dear to him as long as he gets what gives him taste and value at that opportune moment (Schulman 4). At first Petey objects but over time his lust for the coat becomes immeasurable, and they strike a deal. The narrator takes over the relationship and Petey go on to crave for other things that make her happy.

According to the tale, the narrator wants Polly for just one reason which is being a freshman in college pursuing law he will soon become a law practitioner. What he has observed however is that all successful lawyers out there have beautiful and intelligent wives and he thinks that Polly is the type to nurture. However, Polly was not intelligent like most wives of successful lawyers are. He believes that he can help Polly smarten up and become smart after all it is simple to make a beautiful dumb girl smart than to make an ugly smart girl beautiful. To do this, the protagonist goes ahead to give the new girl a class in logic. He thinks this is the best plan to enlighten the girl and further help her attain satisfactory intelligence.

Fallacies in the Tale

Throughout the course, he introduces Potty to new fallacies such as poisoning the well, hasty generalization, post hoc, and false analogy. He uses false analogy as follows as well as poisoning the well where he intentionally attacked Petey for being a dump and not having compelling character and capability to match Potty. The narrator using hasty generalization gives reasons to Potty why five nights together gives them a reason to be together and not with Petey. The main agenda behind all these fallacies were to enlighten the girl and somehow create a connection between the two. However, this never works as Potty gains more intelligence. The narrator is quoted saying, "we have now spent five evenings together. We have gotten along, splendidly. It is clear that we are well matched"(Schulman 9), but according to Potty, this is a hasty generalization because she thinks that five dates cannot justify a relationship. Throughout the conversation, after the fallacy course, the narrator and Potty engage in a solid forth fallacy argument with Potty getting the better of it. Potty has mastered her skills better and has used her intelligence to outsmart the narrator who here seems to be an opportunist. The narrator later realizes that he is losing the fight and him, therefore, resorts to poisoning the well- a common fallacy, to influence Potty otherwise but it does not work (Schulman 12).


In conclusion, narrators become a good plan but go awry at the end as Polly finds a reason to connect again with Petey. The major fallacy in the tale is love. Love cannot be influenced or manipulated. The narrator at the end thinks that she can now propose to Polly especially having trained her using different fallacies but Polly turns down his proposal. The narrator becomes the loser, and the victim becomes at first he thought he could use his "raccoon coat" to win over his roommate's girlfriend, but the whole thing fails. He brands Petey a faddist, but in the real sense, he was a faddist. The thought of having a beautiful and an intelligent girl to be successful just like other lawyers was a hasty generalization. The narrator has become the victim because in one way he has created love for this girl that somehow was inexistent. The narrator has made her intelligent but because he wants to get into a deep relationship with Polly his motives are self-centered. He was only interest with beauty and appearance and not true love as he insinuates and this shows that actually love is a fallacy.

Work Cited

Schulman, Max. "Love is a Fallacy." The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (Garden City, NY: Garden City Press, 1953) 47 (2005), 1-13.

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April 06, 2023


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