I found Sherman Alexie’s “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” especially interesting in terms of design and voice. The storyteller seems extremely casual about all of the events that occur in the story. The main property is that the narrator, Jackson, a homeless Native American, discovers 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 attempt and make the cash.
The fascinating aspect of the character Jackson, is that although getting back this regalia that once belonged to his grandma is his main concern, his driving force, he does not appear all that fretted about the method he finds and spends his money. There are moments after he has set out to find the money where he invests any cash he comes up with on alcohol or food. It gives the reader an unusual sense and question just how much Jackson really cares about the heirloom.
You understand he cares since he is believing about his grandma, he keeps speaking about getting the regalia back, however whenever he stumbles upon 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 quickly sidetracked and spends his cash nearly willingly.
Although some of his purchases and costs are generous and legitimate, it takes away form the effort the reader sees behind his inspiration to get the regalia back.
An essential stylistic choice Alexie makes in this story is the casual voice, that apathetic reactions Jackson needs to many action in the plot. Jackson is incredibly simple with the way his is feeling, with what he is believing, and simply states these ideas through simple syntax throughout the story. For example, at one point he states, “After consuming, I strolled outdoors and threw up on the sidewalk. I disliked to lose my food so not long after consuming it. As an alcoholic Indian with a busted stomach, I constantly hope I can keep adequate food in me to survive.” This practically has a troubling tone to it, since 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.
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