Essay on Ashley Peacock 582 Final

Submitted By ashleypeacock007
Words: 1744
Pages: 7

Ashley Peacock
Gretchen Papazian
English 582
4.28.2014
Exploration of Identity, Racism, and Mortality:
An Analysis of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Sherman Alexie is the jack of all trades—he makes films, writes poetry, and pens novel after novel. Published in 2007, Alexie shifts to young adult literature to offer an autobiographical depiction of reservation life that he describes as both bleak and hopeful, yet heartrending and uplifting. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a coming of age story written in first person narrative from the perspective of fourteen-year-old Arnold Spirit Jr, better known as “Junior”. As the title suggests, the narrative has a confessional quality, revealing feelings to the reader through the use of verbal and visual language. He introduces his hardscrabble life on the Spokane Indian reservation in the first chapter called “The Black-Eye-of-the-Month Club”. Through his “absolutely true” diary, Arnold describes his impediments and vulnerabilities, the biggest of which is living on a reservation where he is a zero with zero future. A pivotal conversation with a teacher spurs Arnold to make a daring life choice—to attend an all-white school miles from the reservation. His rocky start there, riddled with stereotypes and misunderstandings, slowly develops into surprising friendships and successes in academics and basketball. Meanwhile, his family life is shattered by deaths, poverty, and alcoholism. Through it all, Arnold survives with a new confidence in himself and hope for the future. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is based on Alexie’s own experiences growing up on the reservation. The text is coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney; together, they chronicle the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live through developing his identity, fighting racism, and mortality. This funny and heartbreaking novel tells a story not only about a biting indictment of American Indian Reservations, but a teenage boy trying to figure out his identity. Arnold, living on the Spokane reservation—as his family has for generations—was born with hydrocephalus. Meaning that he was born with excess cerebrospinal fluid, and other health problems; although this has been a struggle, he is intelligent and artistic. One of his teachers urges him to leave the “rez”, his term for the reservation, and make a better life for himself. Arnold decides to transfer to the "white" school in a nearby city where he makes friends and becomes a basketball star. His narrative chronicles, his highs and lows as he toggles between white and Indian cultures and the racism are found in both. The journey to a meaningful identity, though, is a difficult one, and Alexie doesn't try to sugarcoat Arnold's life. Alexie has been known in other works for his realistic depictions of reservation life, what he himself calls "reservation realism". Throughout the novel, Arnold finds it difficult to feel optimistic about himself and his culture. His experience is reminiscent of the migrant experience the world over, in which Alexie portrays this as the feeling of not belonging to either culture or being completely accepted by either culture. For Arnold, it is a continuing battle to find his individual identity within his cultural identity. His poor self-esteem is connected with the idea of being poor and even believing that he deserves to be poor. He is considered to be a traitor by his people and when he gets to Reardan, he is considered inferior for being Indian. As he starts his life at a new school, he comes to the realization of seeing himself as having two different selves: Junior from the outcast from the reservation and Arnold from the white high-school at Reardon. How does he do this we ask? Well, Arnold learns to see himself not simply…