The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
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Alexie Sherman uses humor to recount the experience and trials of a native teenager in America, Arnold Spirit Junior. Junior lives in an Indian reservation - Spokane, where people have turned to drinking instead of seeking education. He then transfers to Reardan high school, where he becomes the only Indian in a white dominated school. He leaves his best friend Rowdy behind and this annoys him, as he vows to never talk to Junior again, naming him a traitor. He struggles in the new school, since other students consider him an outcast. In this regards, he strives to enhance his social standing and he accidentally accomplishes this by joining the basketball team.
As a freshman, he worked hard to become a starting player in the varsity team. His biggest challenge was when he had to play against his former team from the reservation, whose star player is Rowdy, his former best friend. At school, he also makes new friends, Penelope and Gordy. Gordy was the school genius who taught him about joys of reading and learning. Towards the end of the book, junior experiences a series of losses of close family members and, as a result, he learns to embrace his joy, in order to cope with pain. This paper strives to investigate the subject matter of racism and discrimination, as portrayed by the author. The paper will discuss the setting of the story, analyse different characters, structure, style and language used to communicate the theme of racism and discrimination.
Racism and Discrimination
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is about an Indian alien in the American soil. The story has its setting on the eastern side of Washington, near the city of spoken. Most parts of the narration involve spoken Indian reservation. A portion of the story is set miles away at Reardan School, where Junior, the narrator, attended high school. Most studens in the school were whites from rich families. He felt alienated and out of place, as he tries to adopt and fit in the harsh, lonely environment. The fact that the Indians remained confined in a reservation shows that they were discriminated based on their races. Alexie notes that in Reardan, the cops were racist to the extent of stopping any car driven by an Indian without any apparent reason (p. 46). Also, in Reardan high school, junior felt like an outcast and out of place because he was of a different race (p. 131).
The author explores other minor themes to highlight the theme of racism and discrimination. The first main theme, which supports racism and discrimination in the book, is that of identity. In the story, Junior felt like an outcast wherever he went and he strives to find an identity to stop him from feeling alienated. He was compared to an apple because he identified with two identities, Indian and white (p. 24). He was in a dilemma, either to consider himself as Arnold, the traitor, or Junior, the Indian. At the end of the narrative, Junior identifies himself as a malty tribal person (p. 44). He says he is both Indian and white and travels like a nomad (p. 30).
Alcoholism and violence is another theme in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part- Time Indian. In the Indian reservation, people had opted to drink and, as a result, they killed each other. Alexie points out that many Indians had killed each other because of the drunk fights. Junior, at some point, was crying because he was sure many more would die because of the alcohol (p. 216). Another theme brought out in the book is poverty. In the story, poverty levels at the Indian reservation were high. The author says this caused people to turn to cheap alcohol instead of education. The author points out that poverty has destroyed peoples’ hopes.
This book is about an Indian alieen in the American soil. The story has a setting of eastern side of Washington near the city of spoken. Most parts of the narration involve Indian reservation. A portion of the story is set miles away at Reardan School, where junior, the narrator, attended high school. Most students in school were whites from rich families. He felt alienated and out of place, as he tries to adopt and fit in the harsh lonely environment. Since Junior is an American native, he feels alienated and out of place, despite of where he goes. The native population in America feels imprisoned and isolated and they were unable to move freely, as they had borders confining them. This acted as a constant reminder of being conquered. The setting helps the readers to have a better understanding and relate to the situation that junior was undergoing. Revealing the setting makes the story more authentic and it helps to reveal the themes of narration.
The author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian uses different stylistic devices to bring out the story. There is the use of symbolism and imagery. The Indian reservation symbolises the plight of the native population in America. Symbolism is evident when Junior’s innocent dog Oscar is shot dead by his drunk father. It symbolises the unreasonable death and destruction in the reservation caused by poverty. Symbolism and imagery is also present when Arnold sees the name of his mother written in the geometric book and throws the book at the teacher. The book symbolizes poverty in the reservation and the school’s low expectations for students. The book is an image of change and Arnold throwing it, shows his rejection of the school offering and the poverty at the reservation. The author used symbolism when Arnold and Rowdy find a giant pine tree on their way to the lake. When they climb the tree, they see everything clearly, even the whole reservation (p. 118). It symbolises their determination to climb past the reservation troubles together.