I found Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” particularly interesting in terms of style and voice. The narrator seems very nonchalant about all of the events that occur in the story. The main premise is that the narrator, Jackson, a homeless Native American, finds his grandmother’s regalia in a pawnshop and aims to buy it back from the owner. He can buy the regalia back for a thousand dollars, so he sets off to try and make the money. The interesting thing about the character Jackson, is that although getting back this regalia that once belonged to his grandmother is his main concern, his driving force, he doesn’t seem all that worried about the way he finds and spends his money. There are moments after he has set out to find the money where he spends any cash he comes up with on booze or food. It gives the reader a strange sense and wonder about how much Jackson really cares about the heirloom. You know he cares because he is thinking about his grandmother, he keeps talking about getting the regalia back, but any time he comes across obstacles or anyone along his path, like the Aleut Indians or the bar where he buys the large group of Native Americans drinks, he becomes easily distracted and spends his money almost willingly.
Although some of his purchases and spending are generous and legitimate, it takes away form the effort the reader sees behind his motivation to get the regalia back. An important stylistic choice Alexie makes in this story is the nonchalant voice, that apathetic reactions Jackson has to most action in the plot. Jackson is extremely straight forward with the way his is feeling, with what he is thinking, and simply states these thoughts through simple syntax throughout the story. For example, at one point he states, “After eating, I walked outside and vomited on the sidewalk. I hated to lose my food so soon after eating it. As an alcoholic Indian with a busted stomach, I always hope I can keep enough food in me to stay alive.” This almost has a disturbing tone to it, because this series of sad and pathetic events do not even faze Jackson.
He has no problem saying he is an alcoholic, or that this is a normal kind of occurrence for him, and rather than it being a big deal, it’s a simple annoyance to him. This is effective for Alexie to do because it creates sympathy and sadness for Jackson. Another example of this is when he is talking about one of his closest friends Junior, and says, “I wanted to share the good news with Junior. I walked back to him, but he was done. I heard later that he had hitchhiked down to Portland, Oregon, and died of exposure in an alley behind the Hilton Head.” He then changes to another subject. This abrupt change and lack of emotion from Jackson toward the loss of Junior tells the reader this in not an unusual type of event to occur, thus perpetuating the theme of loneliness in Jackson’s life. This voice Jackson carries and the series of conflict throughout the story create an effective desire for me, as the reader, for Jackson to get the regalia back, and have something with some kind of meaning and purpose in his life, in a sense the only thing that he really cares about.