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In the book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, the reader learns about the life journeys of Arnold Spirit, a Native American teenager from WellPoint, Reservation in Spokane, Washington. He grows up on the Reservation with his mother and father and his sister Mary, who is a hermit. He also talks a lot with his grandmother. Junior is born with special needs, too much cerebral fluid in his brain; a stutter and lisp; eyesight problems needing big black rimmed dorky glasses, as we soon learn and, to make it all worse, he is a self-described nerd who is teased and bullied all the time. He gets beaten up every day of his life by fellow Native Americans for any and every reason. He lives in extreme poverty and is surrounded by alcoholism, drug addiction and violence. His school is admittedly designed for Indians like him to fail and to give up hope. Junior isn’t satisfied with his life, since he’s so poor, but he gets along somehow. Furthermore, he’s considered a traitor after he switches to Reardon the new school, a school with no other Native Americans. Arnold is a hero for his people because even though his tribe labels him a “traitor” he is the only Indian who leaves the reserve to live his dream and break the stereotypes of Indians, and he is also strong willed.
At the beginning, Arnold Spirit describes himself as a “stuttering hydrocephalic living on an impoverished Indian reservation where he is regularly bullied and beaten up” (pg. 1-15). His parents are alcoholics, his sister is a hermit, and his best friend is abused by his father. Also Junior always uses the term “Indian” to describe himself and the other Natives on the Spokane Reservation. He never explains why he always uses this term over the nicer correct term Native American. One can say that Indian is more direct. This connects to the fact that he stereotypes people including himself an example would be when he describes himself multiple, times as weird another is when Junior sometimes uses homophobic language, for example, as a way to relate to and communicate with people like Rowdy or Rowdy’s dad for whom such language is the norm. This shows that his tribe doesn’t like him, which connects to the point.
The point the author is trying to say is that Junior is mad. When in the novel Junior’s teacher Mr. P, says, “All these kids have given up,” he said “All your friends. All the bullies, And their mothers and their fathers have given up, too. And their grandparents before them. And me and every other teacher here on the res. We’re all defeated.” Mr. P was crying. “But not you,” Mr. P said “you can’t give up. You won’t give up. “You threw that book in my face because somewhere inside you refuse to give up, If you stay on this res, they’re going to kill you, I’m going to kill you, we’re all going to kill you”. “You can’t fight us forever”. “I don’t want to fight anybody,” I said, “You’ve been fighting since you were born,” he said “you fought off that brain surgery. You fought off those seizures. You fought off all the drunks and drug addicts. You kept your hope. And now, you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope” (pg. 43, Alexie, Sherman). This shows that Mr. P thinks Arnold has potential and talent which is probably why Mr. P said that to him.
Another point is when Junior asks his parents, “Who has the most hope?” They both said, “White people.” Then Arnold says, “I want to go to Reardon” (pg. 43). This shows that Mr. P was right. People on the reservation don’t try; they just live in their disappointments like Junior’s parents. His father could’ve been a professional jazz player, his mother a teacher or a lawyer but they both decided they were just dreams. This returns to the thesis which was that Junior is that even though Junior is beaten up and lives in a sad, racist environment he still has hope and never gives up. This shows that no matter what he’s not afraid of trying, which connects to the next point.
That tells the reader that Junior is willing to try to improve his life not like the rest of his tribe. When he tells people that he’s going to Reardon, they label him as a traitor for leaving; even Rowdy is mad at him and punches him and Rowdy never punches Junior. This says that he has courage and no matter what his tribe will do he’ll still go and never give up because why can white people lead better lives than Natives. Junior will see how it feels to not give up and end up living a depressing life. When his father hugs him and says “this is a great thing…You’re so brave you’re a warrior”, this shows that his father is proud of him and idolizes him for going to a better school and having hope and doing what he himself didn’t do.
Junior isn’t like the rest of his tribe; he has dreams and wants to achieve them. He doesn’t give up which leads to the third point, which is that in the first part of the book Junior stereotypes everyone & later on in the book he doesn’t and wants to prove to everyone that not every Indian drinks and dies in a car accident and not every white person is successful which shows how Junior developed from the beginning to the end. Two examples would be when in the middle of the book he talks to Gordy and says, “Some Indians think you have to act white to make your life better. Some Indian’s think you become white if you try to make your life better, if you become successful. If that were true, then wouldn’t all white people be successful?” (pg. 131). Another is when the teacher says something bad about Junior and Natives and then the entire class leaves and he says “I used to think the world was broken down by tribes, by black people & white but I know that isn’t true. The world is broken into 2 tribe’s people who are good and the ones that are not.”(pg. 176). This shows that Junior has developed/learned his way of thinking is different from the way he used to think at the rez.
The conclusion of the novel is that over the summer, “Rowdy asks Arnold to play a game of one on one basketball”. Rowdy starts to understand and accept Junior’s choices to leave the reservation. He tells Arnold about some old time Indians he read about and how they used to be Nomadic meaning they moved from one place to another. Rowdy thinks Arnold is very much like these nomads because he sees Arnold in the future travelling a lot.
Also, Rowdy tells Arnold about a dream he had about him, in which Arnold was standing on the Great Wall of China. Rowdy tells Arnold that in the dream he was happy for him. Arnold cries. Not only has Arnold accepted who he is, but Rowdy is also trying to see and understand Arnold’s new sense of self.
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