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Reservation Blues Essay

Sherman Alexie, author of the novel Reservation Blues, explains that at the start of an Indian’s life on a reservation, he or she is destined to be hopeless. First, parental guidance is infrequent leaving many infant Indians with an insufficient childhood. After that, Indian children experience poor education revolved around heaps of stereotyping and bullying from their white classmates and teachers. Next, any sort of entertainment such as television, music, and books are extremely rare. Then leaving their life with a lack of stability and sustainability, an Indian grows up on a reservation with little to no job opportunity. On top of that, reservations are subjected to commodity food; food hardly sufficient and plentiful enough to satisfy a human’s basic needs. All of these factors fill the lives on the reservation with despair, causing most Indians to indulge in alcohol, violence, and suicide. And so, hopelessness within modern Native Americans ultimately leads to self destructive behavior.

Hopelessness eludes few Indians on the Spokanes Reservations, and Samuel Build-The-Fire profoundly exemplifies lost hope. Alexie asserts that when Builds-The-Fires was young, he was named Player of the Year and was interviewed by Walter Cronkite because of his significant basketball talent. Samuel became a hero because of his success, and his fellow tribe members wanted him to become more than just an average Indian on the reservation. Until, that is, Alexie describes that after a crooked basketball game with the Reservation’s white policeman, Samuel’s basketball ability was lost. This loss in Samuel’s life created a void, leaving him empty. After dragging his old, drunken, helpless father in from the lawn outside, Builds-The-Fire’s son, Thomas expresses that “His basketball days [are] over, he [doesn’t] have much else.” Finally, Samuel’s destructive behavior of being an alcoholic and a constant public disturbance articulates that he has no hope in life.

Victor’s life reveals a life without family, education and income. Alexie explains that Victor watching his dead mother being stuffed into a trunk by his step-father invokes the start of Victor’s hopeless life. This depicts the sort of troubled life Victor has lived. The only spawn of hope Victor formulates is within his friendship with Junior; however, that hope soon dies as Alexie reveals that Junior committed suicide. In being too inept to obtain a job due to his lack of education, Victor maintains a full-time career in being a hopeless drunk just like Samuel Builds-The-Fire. Alexie suggests nothing else is left for Victor to do in life except to be destructive. Alexie elucidates that Junior failed at being successful at life outside of the reservation and could not handle living with his failure so he committed suicide.

In being one of the intelligent Indians on the Reservation, Junior sought a college education. Junior had hope that he could escape life on the Reservation. Nevertheless, he dropped out of college and fell in love with a white-woman named Lynn. Alexie discloses that Junior got Lynn pregnant and she rejected Junior as a suitable life partner and father to her child because Junior was Indian. These series of events made Junior feel not only very forlorn in general, but also ashamed to be an Indian. Alexie then conveys that Liz’s abortion of the baby evokes suicidal thoughts within Junior. In the end, Junior becomes so distraught with what has become of his life that he kills himself.

The modern Native American has a life where there is no hope and a great amount of self destruction. Samuel, Victor, and Junior all had things that supplied them with some sort of hope. Samuel had basketball, Victor had Junior, and Junior had his own intelligence, but in the end each individual lost their source of hope. Alexie’s writing is a rare and honest interpretation of the many different factors and issues the modern Indian comes to terms with during the course of their life. The lack of hope within Native American Reservations is just one of many tribulations faced, but it produces some of the most self-destructive results.


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