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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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Carrie K.

on 10 May 2013

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Transcript of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True
Diary of a Part-Time
Indian by Sherman Alexie Theme : Rejection Theme: Poverty Motif: Basketball Rejection by Community Rejection by Peers Betrayal of Community
and Culture Motif: Alcohol Theme :
Betrayal One significant theme in the book is that of betraying Alexie included this theme in the novel to show
that the right choice isn't always easy, and might
seem like a mistake at the time. It can be especially
difficult to make a beneficial choice for yourself
if it means you feel like you're betraying your
community or values, but in the end, these choices
are sometimes vital. Alcohol shows up many times within the story, and plays some extremely important roles within it. Unfortunately, many of the times that alcohol shows up, it's intertwined with death; as Arnold says, "my sister was TOO FREAKING DRUNK to feel any pain when she BURNED TO DEATH" (205). She had been passed out when the fire occurred and never even woken up and tried to escape. Arnold's grandmother was killed by a drunk driver, and his father's friend Eugene was shot and killed by another man who was drunk over the last sip of a bottle of cheap wine. Alcohol is also a problem in Arnold's relationship with his father, who is often under the influence. Over Christmas, when they had just barely enough money to celebrate, his father "took what little money [they] did have and ran away to get drunk" (150). He was grateful
to discover that his dad had saved five dollars for him, rather than blow it on a
cheap bottle of whiskey. Alexie included this motif because, as described
in the book, alcoholism is rampant on Indian reservations like the
one the author himself grew up on, and caused a large amount
of problems, including having to experience many
deaths at a fairly young age. In the book, Arnold decides to go to Reardan, a predominantly white school. Right off the bat, he is treated differently by the teachers, and
not accepted by the students. Some even ridicule him. On his first day of school, he laments that they were even "laughing at my name" (60). Additionally, by deciding to go to Reardan, he is shunned by his
best and only friend Rowdy. Rowdy used to protect him from humiliation by the other kids and even some adults on the reservation, but begins to join in in the harassment. This theme is important to the book because Arnold learns how to earn people's respect when they don't give it freely. Arnold has never been fully accepted by his community, since he is small and a little funny-looking, and has always been the object of harassment. As touched upon earlier in the theme of betrayal, when he decides to attend Reardan and leave the reservation, something that's taboo within the culture, he is only rejected further because the community feels he has betrayed Indian values. A second motif that occurs is basketball. There are three extremely important events that occur within the story that involve basketball in some way. The first is the reservation team's first game against Reardan. This is the first chance that Arnold has to prove to his community that just because he goes to a white school, he's not useless or weak. Unfortunately, Arnold says that "somebody in the crowd threw a quarter at me...They drew blood. I was bleeding. So I couldn't play" (145). The reservation team ends up beating Reardan by a huge margin. However, the second game between the two schools, Reardan wins partially due to Arnold's talented playing. A last significant place the motif shows up is in the very end, when Rowdy and Arnold make up and play a friendly game of basketball. A third theme present in Absolutely True Diary is that of poverty. On the Indian reservation that Arnold lives on, poverty is the norm. Many of the kids don't even always have food to eat, and no one has much extra money for anything (except perhaps alcohol). While at Reardan, Arnold tried to do his best to hide his poverty from others, but eventually told a girl from Reardan, Penelope, when she asked directly, "Yes, ...I'm poor" (127). He's afraid that they'll judge him for it, but rather, he's stunned by how much people care about him. The reason Alexie featured this theme in the book is to illustrate one major problem with reservations and the Indian culture, as well as letting the
character Arnold discover that he had made genuine friends.
As he said himself, "If you let people into your life a
little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing" (129). The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time-Indian, by Sherman Alexie, is about a boy named Arnold who has grown up in poverty on an Indian reservation. His father is an alcoholic, like many others on the "rez". He has a secret dream to escape the reservation one day and become a famous artist - he loves to draw, especially cartoons. But one day, after a teacher at the reservation tells him that he can only succeed if he leaves the rez, he decides to attend the all-white school Reardan in a nearby neighborhood. He faces a lot of challenges, such as racism, alienation, and trying to hide his poverty, but perseveres and overcomes them all. Arnold is the main character and narrator of the story. Other important characters are Penelope and Gordy, two friends he makes at Reardan, and his sister, Mary. Arnold also used to be inseparable friends with Rowdy, a slightly unstable boy from an abusive home who lives on the reservation, but upon starting school at Reardan, Rowdy turned on him. Summary When was the last time that you read a picture book? It was probably a good long time ago. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is basically a picture book for teenagers, with themes like being the odd one out and having friendship issues that everyone can relate to. one's community and culture. Arnold knows that if he wants to achieve his dreams, he's going to have to leave the reservation. However, it's the only life he's ever known, and he knows it will be frowned upon to embrace the outside world. He works up the courage to attend a primarily white school off of the reservation, and there's a great deal of backlash from the community. They call him "white lover" and "apple" - red on the outside, white on the inside. Many people on the reservation feel that he has betrayed them by trying to leave, and heavily criticize him for it. When Arnold's basketball team plays against the team from the reservation school, "[the Indians] all turned their backs" on him, literally (144). Arnold's leaving the reservation school caused basically his entire community and only friend, Rowdy, to reject him, but ultimately was the reason that he wasn't condemned to a life of poverty and alcoholism. Alexie included this theme to show the trouble with staying within one set of beliefs and behaviors. Both teachers and students at Reardan rejected him initially because of his race, and the Indian community rejected him for violating their culture by going out into the world and trying to create a better life for himself. If we judge and reject people without considering their motives or the actual person we're shunning, people can easily get unfairly hurt or persecuted. Alexie included this theme to show the development in the character of Arnold as the story progressed. At first, he wants to play, but something gets in the way and he is unable to. Later, he is more determined, and wins against Wellpinit. However, he realizes that he may have won, but also sees how badly it could have hurt the kids from the reservation and how terrible it might make them feel. At the end, he is no longer competitive, but has fixed his friendship and is relaxed, playing simply for fun. I was surprised at how much I liked this book. Generally, I don't really love books that are blunt and occasionally talk about kind of gross, vulgar things. Luckily, though, there was a lot more than that to the story. I was extremely impressed by how much Arnold overcame in the book, especially considering that the story is semi-autobiographical. There were some lessons contained that were demonstrated very well, such as that you shouldn't ever give up, even if people put you down, and that it's wrong to judge others based on their appearance or culture, even if you think it's a positive assumption. A few parts of the book were actually really funny, and I found the pictures entertaining as well, and thought they really added to the story. I didn't have high expectations for this book, but after reading it, I would definitely recommend it. Conclusion The book Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian can at first appear to be a light, humorous read. However, there's a lot more to it than there appears. It contains important themes like betrayal, rejection, and poverty, as well as dealing with issues like racism and alcoholism. Though not all of these problems are completely relatable to every reader, everyone can at the very least on some level relate to having been left out or ridiculed at some point. Although there is some humor, the lessons are still obvious and significant, and something that every person should be sure to learn.
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