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W.E.B. DuBois coined the term “Double Consciousness” in his classic work, “The Souls of Black Folk”. But, what does this term even mean? To be double conscious is the act of seeing yourself through another society’s eyes as well as still being true to your own society at the same time. One that is double conscious can still carry the values that their society has and implementing them in a way that helps the society grow. Therefore, they do not fully assimilate. One author that does write about the struggle of having double consciousness is Sherman Alexie with his short excerpt, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”. Sherman’s main character goes through many ordinary circumstances, however, they are not ordinary to his character, for he is able to understand what the American society assumes about his culture. However, Sherman’s character is not very contributive to society in any way. This allows the author to change DuBois’ original definition of double consciousness.
In his story, Sherman Alexie’s character, a young Native American man, experiences what seems to be normal confrontations, but because of his double consciousness, they are thrown out of proportion. For example, Alexie writes about a time where his character was driving through a white neighborhood thinking about his life. A cop, who was probably called to the neighborhood, pulls him to the side and explains, “You’re making people nervous. You don’t fit the profile of the neighborhood (Alexie).” Sarcastically, the narrator thought of telling the officer he “didn’t really fit the profile of the country (Alexie).” Alexie’s character shows that he understood what the official was trying to tell him, that he was an outcast. Even the fact that the narrator claims the police officer was called on the scene shows that the narrator understands where he is on America’s social food chain. This even furthers in the narrator's double consciousness as paranoia. After a typical three a.m. visit to the local 7-11, the narrator has an encounter with the men in blue again, as he waved to them in his car. The part that shows he is paranoid is the fact that he assumes they “accidentally” waved back. It was not just because they were trying to be polite, but because, at least in the narrator’s mind, they were profiling him again. These instances show that the narrator is fully aware of what the rest of the population think of him, but also he is able to assume what they are thinking about him. Lastly, double consciousness is does in fact help develop the story better, for if the narrator was not aware of society’s view, the nonchalant cop wave would not have been such a big deal to him.
The other part of DuBois’ definition of double consciousness, that instead of assimilating, one would better society by being themselves, is really not represented in this story, and therefore the story has changed the definition. Alexie’s main character is actually struggling with his identity. His mother even asks him the question, “what are you going to do with the rest of your life? (Alexie).” He replies, “Don’t know (Alexie).” He goes on to say that he has a degree, he is smart, and he was suppose to be this christ figure to the Indian people by becoming somebody. For the most part, however, he just “watched television” and “for weeks flipped through the channels”. Therefore, he even admits that he is not filling DuBois definition of contributing to society in a positive manner.
All in all, Sherman Alexie’s character does understand how the greater society perceives him. Almost to the point where it negatively affects his lifestyle (being cautious walking on the sidewalk). He realizes all of these stipulations and still does not prove them wrong by becoming something greater with himself or showing society that they are wrong, which would help change society. He kind of assimilates in this way, for he fits the definition of most college graduates today, trying to figure out what to do your life after graduate school.
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