The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie highlights problems faced by a native boy with a disorder living on a reservation. Junior is the main character of the story, and readers have the opportunity to read his diary and hear his thoughts on what goes on in his everyday life The story is about Junior’s life on the reservation where he is then encouraged to go to an all-white high school in Reardan, Washington.

He demonstrates how hard life in a residential school would be based on the racism and discrimination he goes through, friend problems that come up in his life, and his struggle on finding his own identity. Junior goes through many situations of racism and discrimination in his daily life. He and his family, along with most other people living at the reservation are poor and tend to blame it on the fact that they are native. It is typical for Native Americans to be poor because of the fact that they are so looked down on.

As Junior explains, “it sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. Brown 02 And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian. And because you’re Indian you start believing you’re destined to be poor. it’s an ugly circle and there’s nothing you can do about it.

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” Junior says that he blames being poor on being Native showing that they are typically less wealthy than white people. He feels as if he were white he would have a chance at having more money and living a better life, but instead believes he deserves to be poor for the fact that he is not white. This goes to show how racism affects his life so dramatically Natives also are told by society that it is wrong to be Native American so they are forced to try to change their culture and be “more white.”

Mr. P explains that as teachers he was supposed to take the Native culture out of Junior’s race, saying to Junior, “When I first started teaching here, that’s what we did to the rowdy ones, you know? We beat them. That’s how we were taught to teach you. We were supposed to kill the Indian to save the child.” “You killed Indians?” ”No, no, it’s just a saying. I didn’t literally kill Indians. We were supposed to make you give up being Indian. Your songs and stories and language and dancing. Everything. We weren’t trying to kill Indian people. We were trying to kill Indian culture. Eliminating the songs, stories, language, and dancing takes away some of the most important factors of Native culture, so taking it away shows that white people find themselves to be superior over natives and want to turn their culture into white culture. At the reservation, everyone is native and are accustomed to each other.

However, when a white person sees a Native American, they look at them as less of a human. Junior switches schools and goes to Reardan High School, on his first day no one wants anything to do with him. He says, “They stared at me, the Indian boy with the black eye and swollen nose, my going-away gifts from Rowdy. Those white kids couldn’t believe their eyes. Brown 03 They stared at me like I was Bigfoot or a UFO. What was I doing at Reardan, whose mascot was an Indian, thereby making me the only other Indian in town?” When Junior makes an appearance at another school, Native’s are not as welcomed and Junior is looked down on. With everything being said, Junior, along with all other natives, is ultimately seen as nothing more than a native boy and treated with many injustices. Every day they seem to be faced with a new problem, whether it being money, culture, or personal problem.

Junior also experiences many issues with his friends, Junior is always losing people, especially those closest to him. The story opens with Junior telling us the story of when his dog gets sick and dies, saying, “I ran away from there as fast as I could, I wanted to run faster than the speed of sound, but nobody, no matter how much pain they’re in, can run that fast. So I heard the boom of my father’s rifle when he shot my best friend”  Junior calls his dog his best friend, and for the fact that they were native, they were poor and did not have the money to pay for medicine to help his friend Junior also develops conflict with many of his friends and the people that mean a lot to him, After telling Rowdy that he is switching schools, the two have a conversation, “”Why are you leaving?” “I have to go I’m going to die if] don’t leave.” I touched his shoulder again and Rowdy flinched.

Yes, I touched him again. What kind of idiot was I? I was the kind of idiot that got punched hard in the face by his best friend. Bang! Rowdy punched me. Bang! 1 hit the ground. Bang! My nose bled like a firework,”( ) Rowdy, who is Junior’s best human friend and has never actually hurt Junior, punches him for the first time. It’s hard for Junior to follow his heart and go to Reardan High School because he does not want to lose his Brown 04 best friend but knows that he can’t talk Rowdy out of feeling that way. Additionally, Junior makes many new friends at his new school. Junior could not go to school for many days due to the loss of his sister, for this his teacher gives him trouble when he returns to school, and his class stands up for him. Junior tells the story, “Instead, it was Gordy who defended me. He stood with his textbook and dropped it, Whomp! He looked so strong. He looked like a warrior.

He was protecting me like Rowdy used to protect me. Of course, Rowdy would have thrown the book at the teacher and then punched her. Gordy showed a lot of courage in standing up to a teacher like that. And his courage inspired the others, Penelope stood and dropped her textbook. And then Roger stood and dropped his textbook, Whomp! And then the other basketball players did the same.” This incident is very important because it shows that Junior has finally made friends at his new school who respect and defend him, looking past his race. He has made friends who value and protect him, just like Rowdy used to protect him. Altogether, Junior has lost and gained many friends and has been through a lot with every one of them. He always had the courage to keep going on, even when faced with a problem and that helped to gain the respect that he has from others Junior’s identity develops a considerable amount as the story goes out. He starts off as a small boy who thinks of himself as everyone at the reservation treats him, as just a “lonely Indian boy with a disorder.”

The beginning of the novel shows Junior as a boy with a lack of self-confidence Children at the reservation treat Junior poorly and treat him as a “retard,” As said by Junior, “Everybody on the rez calls me a retard about twice a day They call me retard when they Brown 05 are pantsing me or stuffing my head in the toilet or just smacking me upside the head. I’m not even writing down this story the way I actually talk, because I’d have to fill with stutters and lisps, and then you’d be wondering why you’re reading a story written by such a retard.” This quote also shows that Junior gives himself the label of a “retard,” proving that he only thinks of himself based on how his peers treat him. Junior eventually comes to realize that the reservation that he is attending will not get him anywhere so he decides to switch schools to Reardan High SchooL It is here that other people slowly start to respect him, giving Junior the chance to start to be happy with who he is.

After his teacher addresses him as Arnold Spirit, Junior tells Penelope, “”My name is Junior, and my name is Arnold, let’s Junior and Arnold, I’m both.” I felt like two different people inside of one body. No, I felt like a magician slicing myself in half, with Junior living on the north side of the Spokane River and Arnold living on the south.” He also says that Junior is a very common given name at the reservation, so being addressed as his real name helps to gain Junior’s dignity. He is no longer known as Junior, he is now Arnold Spirit and that is a vital part to the journey of finding his identity. The qttote also shows that now at Rearden, the people who looked down on him now respect him enough to call him by his birth name. By the end of the story it is clear that Arnold has found confidence and his worth and knows that he is more than just a boy with a disorder living at a residential school. Arnold says, “I realized that, sure, I was a Spokane Indian.

I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms. And to the tribe of cartoonists. And to the tribe of chronic masturbators. And the tribe of teenage boys. And the tribe of small-town kids. Brown 06 And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners. And the tribe of tortilla chips—and-salsa lovers. And the tribe of poverty. And the tribe of funeralgoers. And the tribe of beloved sons. And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends. It was a huge realization. And that’s when I knew that I was going to be okay.” This quote proves how Arnold has come to feel accepted and he now has the ability to look at the brightside of many situations. He knows that he is valttable as a person and this is very important to his character. Altogether, Arnold Spirit started the story off as a boy named Junior who introduced himself as a “retard“ with a disorder, but he is able to end the story as a young man who has found a place to belong everywhere.

All in all, Junior is an excellent example of showing what Native children living on a reservation goes through. He teaches that while it is impossible to overcome racism, it is possible to overcome the effect it has on you if you can realize how wrong others are. He also demonstrates how real friendships work. It is just as easy to lose your best friend as it is to befriend your worst enemy, as shown with Rowdy and Roger Lastly, he teaches that the way a person is treated by others affects how that person will think of themself. When others started to treat him with respect, he improved as a person who was happy with himself and could easily find a place to belong. Overall, Junior proves himself as a worthy character and role model and helps to open readers’ eyes to the absolutely true problems needed to overcome living on a reservation.

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. (2023, Apr 19). Retrieved from

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