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This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 874

Essay

Introduction

The below literary analysis will examine the themes and symbols that are presented by Alexie in “This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona”. The author of the current review would like to analyze the characters, their behavior, and attitudes, in order to reveal what the writer is attempting to show readers.

In his short story, Alexie describes the modern existence of tribal people living in reservations as lonely. His writing tells the readers that community only exists on paper, and there is no more group cohesion or community that would provide individuals with a sense of belonging and strength. The main character, Victor (Alexie, p. 12) asks the question: “Whatever happened to the tribal ties, the sense of community?”.

Literary And Theme Analysis

Storytelling is what Thomas Build-the-Fire thinks needs to do. According to Kim (73) confirms:

Storytelling, with its messages about the energy, the pride, and the connection   the Native Americans once had, replaces the stereotypes of Native Americans   with the traditional identities that once proudly led the Indians of the past and     continue into the present.”.

Telling stories is the only means of connecting to the past, according to Alexie, and this is clearly represented in the theme when Victor remembers his father after Thomas Builds-the-Fire tells him a story about the deceased man.

Alexie, however, integrates storytelling in the narrative, as well, by featuring memories of the past, for example when Victor beat up Thomas, or when Thomas “flew” and broke his arms. There are two different dimensions of story-telling, therefore, story within the story occurs (frame narrative). All layers are used to reflect on the characters’ situation and experiences of growing up in a reservation, and being excluded from the mainstream society.

Main Themes and Character Development

Liu and Zhang (107) mentions that “Alexie’s Indian characters are talented, eloquent, and expressive, loving stories and endlessly telling stories “. This is true for the characters who – in the beginning of the story – seem to be static and unchanged. They live – and have been living since birth – at the reservation, and consider this as their normal state of existence. The only clue that Alexie gives the readers about the motivations, dreams, and hopes of the two Indian boys, Victor and Thomas Builds-the-Fire is represented through the stories. The most captivating representation of the unconscious motivations of the boys is the story about the two Indian boys who wanted to be warriors. Being a warrior represents breaking out of the norms, and wanting more in life. The boys cannot be warriors, as there are no horses any more, so they steal a car.

The fact that Alexie mentions that there are no more warriors and no more horses confirms Liu and Zhang’s following statement: “characters first express interest in going into the mainstream society, are commercially oppressed”. Nobody has a few hundred dollars to lend to Victor, apart from Thomas. People rely on officials to help them out. Their lives are disconnected, and they lost their roots.

Describing the fireworks on the 4th of July that the two boys go and watch the fireworks. Thomas remarks that it is strange why people at the reservation celebrate the American national holiday. Indeed, they struggle to connect with the mainstream society, and still feel alone in their own reservation, among their own people. They are trying to make sense of being a native Indian in America. When they are on the plane and the woman asks them if they are Indian, Victor proudly states: “Full blood” (Alexie, 6). However, Thomas uses humor to avoid truthfully answering the question and says that he is the son of a magician and a clown. Interestingly, through this statement he shows signs of internalized racism: he unconsciously degrades his origins, and admits his inferiority.

Taking care of each other is what could rebuild the deconstructed Indian identity. Victor’s father told Thomas in his vision: “Take care of each other” (Alexie, 8). The sense of community is simply something that has been let go in the reservation: Just like he considers his father gone and something to forget about. As he puts it: “Like letting things go after they’ve stopped having any use” (Alexie, 12). Without embracing one’s identity and roots, people remain alone and disconnected. Victor promises Thomas to listen to his story “just once”, opening up the opportunity to understanding life as an Indian better.

Conclusion

Alexie’s narrative is about the deconstruction of native identities and finding one’s roots. For Thomas, the means of connection is storytelling, while Victor has not found a way to fully embrace his identity. As Kim (77) describes the problem of segregation and oppression presented by the author: Native Americans themselves failed to fight against such injustice and have fallen into the trap of self-fulfilling stereotypes”. Alexie attempts to deconstruct stereotypes created by white people and the media and show readers how new identities can be created through self-exploration and story-telling.

Works Cited

Alexie, S. “This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona” 1994. Print.

Kim, E.Storytelling: The Finder of True Native American Identity” In: Discoveries. 2008 Spring. Print.

Liu, K. and Zhang, H. “Self- and Counter-Representations of Native Americans: Stereotypical Images of and New Images by Native Americans in Popular Media” Intercultural Communication Studies XX: 2 (2011)  2011. Print.

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