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Reservation Blues

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on 31 January 2014

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Transcript of Reservation Blues

Reservation Blues
The gradual decay of culture is very eminent in our modern insensitive society.
Heritage and upbringing sways the decisions of later generations.
Cultural assimilation is difficult, for the majority is prejudiced and narrow minded (Pg.175).

Literary Devices:
Faust- an epic poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, refers to any legend, in which a character sells his/her soul to the devil.
Native American Mythology-
American Policy of Assimilation- to cause (a person or group) to become part of a different society, country, etc.
"The Crossroads Curse" of Robert Johnson-The tale says that Johnson met the Devil at a Mississippi crossroads, and in exchange for being able to play blues music on his guitar, Johnson sold his soul to the devil. Only the devil could create music with such sorrow and controversial rhythm, and Johnson became the sacrifice for the creation of modern blues.

Sherman Alexie
Born October 7th 1966
Grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation
Underwent brain surgery at 6 months because of hydrocephalus
Received a Scholarship to Gonzaga University eventually settled at Washington State.
Reservation Blues was his first novel
Won the American Book Award 1996 for RB among others
-Characterization: Page 48 provide insight on the characters personal views and interpretations. See quote on 113.
-Symbolism: "He sang 'Stairway to Heaven' in four different languages but never knew where that staircase stood" (pg. 101).
"There were a million stories about Big Mom..." (Pg.199).
-Theme: "Samuel ran ragged trying to defend himself against the entire world" (Pg.113).
"Big Mom taught us a new song..." (Pg.306).

By: Sherman Alexie
Publication: 1995
The time period of the book is approximately in the 80's to the 90's.
Many flashbacks-establish the characters past and is used as a form of exposition.
Allusion to Robert Johnson (1938)
Spokane reservation is the main setting (Washington state)
Indian Civil Rights act-Not many individual rights even currently
Brief Plot Summary
Reservation Blues
The book opens on the famous blues musician Robert Johnson standing at the crossroads (in the Spokane Reservations in Washington) he sings of. The rest of the reservation is shocked at the foreign individual in their home. Thomas-Builds-the-Fire welcomes him into their home and drops him by Big Mom's house. Thomas notices that Robert has left his guitar and begins to play with it. From there, he forms a band with his childhood acquaintances Victor Joseph and Junior Polatkin. They grow as a band together and make discoveries about themselves during their ascent to fame. They meet two other Indians, Chess and Checkers Warmwater on their home, the Flathead reservation. They join the band and grow with the other members. At the height of their fame, they grow away from their culture and are rejected from their homes. At the end, Thomas, Chess, and Checkers leave the Spokane Reservation for city life.
Thomas Builds-the-Fire
: Protagonist, Bass guitarist. eager, caring, honest, modest, thoughtful, passionate. Very logical and level headed writes the songs he sings.
Junior Polatkin
: Played the drums, childhood friends with Thomas. He not as extreme, but follows Victor. "Could be a snag" but is goofy and dependent.
Victor Joseph
: Plays Robert Johnson's guitar, Childhood friends with Thomas. He is aggressive, and greedy. Described as a "jerk" and a "caveman".
Depression/ Suicide
Racial Barriers
Robert Johnson's Guitar
Big Mom
Singing Horses
Interracial dating
Thomas's ten commandments

Characters Continued
Checkers Warm Water: She is the younger or the sisters, considered most beautiful Indian woman. Very sassy, feisty, and firm in her beliefs. Fights Victor when he disrespects her.
Chess Warm Water: Older of the sisters. She and Thomas are in love. Wears glasses, and broke her nose in high school (effects appearance). Curious and thoughtful, protective and smart.
Magical Realism
Wry, Sharp, Honest, and Witty
Witty: "Everybody likes to find a place to think, to meditate, to eat a burrito..." (Pg.13).
Josie Follick, Roxanne Jester, Courtney Medina, Joey Miller, Rachel Sinclair, and Tennison Watts
Magic realist novels and stories have a strong narrative drive, in which the recognizably realistic merges with the unexpected and the inexplicable and in which elements of dreams, fairy story, or mythology combine with the everyday, often in a mosaic or kaleidoscopic pattern of refraction and recurrence.
Examples: The Harry Potter Series and Life of Pi
Author's style and Techniques
"There are many ways to tell a story"
-Sherman Alexie

Song Lyrics
Journal Entries
Newspaper Articles
Basketball Scores
*The use of
black humor,
sarcasm, and unsolicited truth,help Alexie achieve this tone. He is fearless, not trying to frame his culture in a particular light. He presents them as they are, with honesty and pride.
Full transcript