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In Sherman Alexie’s short story “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”, the main character Jackson Jackson goes on a “quest” to gather one hundred dollars in order to buy his grandmother’s pow wow regalia–which was stolen many years prior– from a pawn shop owner. Though he does not make the one hundred, the owner decides to give him the regalia anyway so he both fails and succeeds in his quest. He was not able to make the money, but his actual goal was to get the regalia back so he is in the end successful. In a similar fashion, Lucille, in Marilynne Robinson’s novel Housekeeping embarks on her own “quest” to have a stable home that will allow her to be accepted by the majority of her society so that she is no longer lonely.
It is apparent early in the novel that Lucille longs for the acceptance and company of people other than her aunt and sister. When the three are trapped in their home due to a flood Lucille is eager to leave and try to find other people. She refuses to play cards and tells her aunt, “I want to find other people” and even suggests how they might be found (Robinson 51). Sylvie responds that “it’s the loneliness. Loneliness bothers lots of people” and tells Lucille and Ruth a story about a woman she believed lost her children or never had them and made them up and was possibly the loneliest person she knew even though she was surrounded by others at train stations (Robinson 51). This ends up being true for Lucille by the end of the novel as she has lost her aunt and sister and both Sylvie and Ruth believe she is in Boston believing that she will no longer be lonely among all of the people, though she may in reality be lonelier now without the love of her family because all she has now is the company of strangers. In the final lines of the novel Ruth as the narrator writes, “No one watching this woman…[could] know how her thoughts are thronged by our absence, or know how she does not watch, does not hope, and always for me and Sylvie” (Robinson 157). Though Ruth suggests that Lucille does not watch or hope to see them, it is possible that Lucille is afraid to do these things because she believes that the two are dead and hoping that they may return is potentially more painful than simply accepting their deaths.
By the end of “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”, Jackson Jackson is overall successful in his quest because he leaves the pawn shop with his grandmother’s pow wow regalia even though he did not meet the terms that were initially set by the pawn shop owner. Lucille on the other hand was overall unsuccessful in her quest because her main objective was to no longer be lonely which is why she strived so hard to fit into society’s mold and expectations. Though she finds a stable home and is able to fit into the expectations of society, Lucille ends up arguably lonelier that she was before as she is surrounded by strangers who do not really know her and has alienated the few family members she had left by refusing to accept them as they were before they are assumed to have committed suicide.
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