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“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie Essay

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 up since he was little. When he starts to gain more friends in this new (American) school, he starts to like and accept himself more than before. In this book, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” (by Sherman Alexie), the main theme is about Arnold trying to accept himself.

At first Junior didn’t like himself; he was constantly beaten up (but saved by his best friend, Rowdy), he had a lisp and stutters so he had no self-confidence. When he made the decision to go to Reardan, a white school, even Rowdy left him. Rowdy thought Junior was betraying their school by going away and transferring so Rowdy didn’t talk to Junior anymore. Without his best friend, Junior completely lost hope. He was scared of the white people and did not expect them to welcome him.

He was right. Most of the Americans were cold to him and he did not try to raise his status. Many of the white people made fun of him, and when one guy, Roger, said “Did you know that Indians are living proof that niggers f*** buffalo?” (pg. 64) he felt that he had to stop it. So he punched him. Junior was expecting to get punched back, but he didn’t. In the Indian Reservation, he would’ve been beaten up. So when he didn’t get punched back, he was surprised. Junior also did not know how to communicate well. One girl, Penelope, even commented on that, “You talk so funny,” (pg. 61). So, not knowing how to communicate or stick up for himself (without punching), he didn’t know how to fit in.

After a while though, Junior started making friends. It first started with him finding Penelope in the bathroom barfing her guts out. He realizes she is bulimic, and he comforts her and they become friends. “Everybody is absolutely shocked that Penelope chose me to be her new best friend,” (pg. 109), because he’s an “absolute stranger” to Reardan, and also, Penelope’s dad is racist. Still, they become close friends and start dating. He also makes friends with Roger (surprisingly), since Roger is a friend of Penelope. When Junior made the basketball team, they become closer. Roger even gave Junior a ride home after a basketball game. Arnold also becomes a friend of a geek, Gordy. They were both “outcasts”, and they understood how it felt to not fit in. After making all these friends, he feels that he is starting to fit in with the white people.

Even after hanging out with a bunch of the American people, Arnold still feels attached to his own heritage. He loves his family and his best friend, Rowdy, and he feels that he needs to make amends with Rowdy. He was really scared that Rowdy would hate him and Junior would need to leave his old Indian self. Later he fixed his problems while playing “one-on-one (basketball) for hours…” (pg. 230) and they “didn’t keep score” (pg. 230). Also, Junior cares about his family a lot.

When two of them died in a row (his grandmother and sister), he didn’t know what to do without them. He also thinks that Indians are forgiving of any kind of eccentricity (until the Americans came). “Gay people were seen as magical, too…Gay people could do anything. They were like Swiss army knives!” (pg. 155). He is pretty accepting of his heritage. He knows that he is Indian going to a white school, and he accepts his heritage. He knows that it’s not wrong for him to be in Reardan and he accepts his life.

Junior, the “part time Indian” didn’t know what to do when he transfers to Reardan. He doesn’t know how to communicate with the “white” people and is kind of scared of them. Soon though, he makes friends and decides: it’s okay, white people aren’t bad (even if some are racists). The theme of this book, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, says that you should not dislike yourself because that’s just going to make your life harder. Just accept yourself and that will improve your life and make you happier.


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