Sherman Alexie was born in 1966 and raised on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington. Although born with a severe case of hydrocephalus, he astonishingly recovered and learned to read at an early age. Alexie used his social rejection to concentrate on his studies. In 1985, he was awarded a scholarship to Gonzaga University where he regrettably began abusing alcohol. His college years can be described as depressing and inspiring. His alcoholism compelled him to convey his feelings on paper. Prompted by Alex Kuo, his poetry professor, Alexie engage in writing using his somber encounters as subject matter.
Since his years at Gonzaga, he has published several stories and poems pertaining to Indian culture and life on the reservation. He has been presented with prestigious awards for his screenplays and novels and was named one of the twenty best young American novelists by The New Yorker. Using melancholy tones and woeful themes, Alexie broadcasts his people’s despair and brings light to the ignored feelings of a lost generation. Perpetual alcoholism, fragmented families, and racial alienation are major issues present in Sherman Alexie’s three short stories.
Sherman Alexie’s “Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock” follows Victor, a young Native American, fondly reminiscing about his father’s drunken antics. In the story, Victor describes life and relationships while on an Indian reservation. One prime social issue on reserves is alcoholism, and Victor sees heavy drinking as a normal way of life. Victor refers to his parents’ marriage saying, “My mother and father would get drunk and leave parties abruptly to go home and make love. (Alexie 52) He implies that a foundation of alcohol and sex for marriage is unhealthy and volatile. Their “passionate, unpredictable, and selfish,” (Alexie 52) connection and their inevitable divorce seem to be a reoccurring theme throughout his writings. The Hendrix tape is persistently accompanied by alcohol and exploited by Victor’s father as a means of avoidance. “Jimi Hendrix and my father became drinking buddies. ” (Alexie 51) Alexie uses several metaphors to describe the soaked relationship between Jimi and his father. The main character describes a “ceremony” performed religiously by his father.
This book, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, is about a boy called Arnold Spirit aka Junior. He is a Native American that lives in an Indian Reservation. He isn’t really satisfied with his life, since he’s pretty poor, but he gets along. He doesn’t really accept himself, since he has multiple medical problems, and he has been beaten ...
Although this ritual took place after a long night of drinking, Victor seizes this opportunity to bond with his absent drunken father. What should be a pathetic and useless father is portrayed as a hero in his son’s eyes. The author uses this unusual bond between father and son to paint an ironic image. Although Victor is young, his ability to understand his surroundings is profound, “I was born a goofy reservation mixed drink, and my father needed me just as much as he needed every other kind of drink. ” (Alexie 52) The witty comparison sadly demonstrates the acceptance of alcoholism within the community.
In 1993, Alexie wrote “This is what it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” illustrating how Native Americans are raised on humiliation and yet are bursting with passion. Lynn Cline, in a Winter 2000/2001 Ploughshares article, claimed Alexie’s work “carries the weight of five centuries of colonization, retelling the American Indian struggle to survive, painting a clear, compelling, and often painful portrait of modern Indian life. ” (Cline) In this short story, two estranged friends agree to band together to make arrangements for Victor’s dead father.
Unable to afford the trip to Phoenix alone, Victor reluctantly decides to travel with his childhood friend Thomas Builds-the-Fire. Alexie uses humor to describe him saying, “Thomas was a storyteller that nobody wanted to listen to. That’s like being a dentist in a town where everybody has false teeth. ” (Alexie 392) Victor is immediately reminded of long forgotten memories. “When they were fifteen…Victor and Thomas got into a fistfight. That is Victor was really drunk and beat Thomas up for no reason at all. ” (Alexie 395) Although Victor had no apparent motive for his violent outbreak, the author insinuates an internal conflict.
The relationship between Victor and Thomas in the movie Smoke Signals is what gives the stories that Sherman A lexie weave they " re meaning. Their relationship grows from acquaintances, to veritable enemies, to close friends. This shifting in association gives the movie a very heartwarming effect. It showed that these young Indian boys overcame the obstacles that had separated them, and while ...
Perhaps the brawl was prompted by Victor’s intensifying anger and painful memories, which was unleashed by alcohol. Later in Arizona, he apologizes for beating Thomas that day. “Oh, it was nothing. We were just kids and you were drunk. ” (Alexie 397) This response, possibly uttered by others on the reservation daily, suggests drunken exploits are acceptable and forgivable. Despite these characters being the victims of circumstance, Sherman Alexie makes these stories easier to handle with humor and unforgettable characters.
Thomas Builds-the-Fire, with his endless storytelling, adds depth to the story with references to Indian history and insight into the past. He remembers how his father ironically died in WWII, “died fighting for this country, which has tried to kill him for years. ” (Alexie 400) Thomas only had his stories, unlike Victor who had grown up with parents. In an environment of alcohol and depression, Alexie portrays the gaps between reservation Indians and urban Indians and mostly poetically between modern Indians and the traditions of the past.
As the two travelers return to Washington, Victor’s guilt begins to reappear. He knows he cannot truly be friends with Thomas Builds-the-Fire because of how others perceived him. This makes him question their lack of commitment to their culture. “Victor was ashamed of himself. Whatever happened to the tribal ties, the sense of community? ” (Alexie 401) These broken bonds are responsible for the degradation of their people. Without family and community to help through difficult times, loneliness, despair, and alcohol are all that is left.
Victor also mentions, “The only real thing he shared with anybody was a bottle and broken dreams. ” (Alexie 401) Alexie’s characters articulate a useful image for understanding the distress and anguish Native Americans experience. Victor grows up in an environment where he is subjected to both his mother’s traditional Native American values and his father’s addiction to American influences. Comparable his character, Alexie’s father was an alcoholic and frequently absent from home, while his mother worked as a clerk to support Alexie and his five siblings.
An American is one who is either a European or a descendant of one. In the early 1600s, the Puritans left England in hope of a better government, a reformed society, and for improved living conditions. The Puritans were in search of religious freedom and to start a new religion completely deviant from the one in England. According to John Winthrop, man has to love his neighbors and care for them ...
Many of his stories, despite the character’s names, seem to represent a point in Alexie’s harsh life. He is one of many Native? American authors who have earned critical and popular success with works that depict the plight of the modern Native Americans. Through the turmoil and surrounded by alcoholism, he has managed to become a successful writer and has influenced a generation.