Sherman Alexie’s Use of Hope in Novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Sherman Alexie’s Use of Hope in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

“You are going to find more and more hope the farther you walk away from this sad, sad, sad reservation” (page 43). Arnold finds the inspiration and courage to leave the reservation in his sister Mary and his mother’s life goals as well as in his teachers guiding words. We learn, from Arnold especially, that understanding your decisions, encouragement and acceptance of the consequence, that anything we set our mind to, is achievable. We learn in the novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, that determination, and the courage to exercise it, will lead to a life of fulfillment and pride.

Arnold is different than everyone else on the reservation. He is the one who is going to make a difference. He watches as his sister runs away to chase her dreams and dwells on how his mother never got the chance to chase hers. His sister Mary is trying to “live a romance novel”. After blaming his sister for leaving, he comes to the realisation that “that takes courage and imagination’’ and she is trying to live her dream of becoming an author. This is Arnold’s moment of realisation - his sister is his inspiration. He realizes what he wants in life. Arnold thought about how his “sister’s spirit was never killed. She hadn’t given up. This reservation tried to suffocate her, had kept her trapped...and now she was out roaming the huge grassy fields of Montana” (page 91). He feels the need to do what Mary did, which is to get away from the reservation and to make something of himself. His parents warn him that he will be the first to leave the reservation and that “the Indians around here are going to be angry with you” (page 47), but he disregards it and listens to his heart. The teenage Indian ‘warrior’ puts aside all worries such as having the kids on the reservation as well as the adults talk badly about him in order to pursue his goal. He wants to prove that he is just like everyone else outside the reservation, and stronger and more brave than everyone on the reservation.

Arnold is encouraged by his mother and his teacher to follow his dreams. His mother was one to tell him that it is okay to leave when everyone was telling him it was wrong. She was his sole support system in his family. She comforted him and patted him on the back for going after what he truly wanted. She saw herself in her son; a determined teenager. She was never able to become the successful teacher she would have liked to have become; therefore it could be that she is living vicariously through Arnold. As much as she inspired and supported him, Arnold also finds himself mesmerized by his teacher, Mr. P’s words of wisdom. His teacher explains how all the kids on the reservation have given up on their dreams and have turned out to be just like every other mother, father, grandmother, or teacher, like himself; because they were all defeated by the reservation. “Not you” exclaims Mr.P to Arnold. “You can’t give up. You won’t give up...because somewhere inside you refuses to give up” (page 43). His mother and his sister had a large impact on Arnold’s direction to pursue his dream; but his teacher pushed him to do it. He made it feel realistic and much needed. He encourages him by assuring him that he can do anything as he has been fighting since he was born. “You fought off that brain surgery. You fought off those seizures. You fought off all the drunks and addicts. You kept your hope. And now you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope “assures Mr.P (Page 43). Arnold leaves the conversation feeling supported and filled with hope. He knows that he is capable of proving to the reservation and to himself that there still is hope for Indians as long as they leave the place that is filled with helplessness.

Feeling powerful, determined, courageous, and encouraged, Arnold is ready to walk past the boundaries of the reservation into a land of hope. He soon realises that this means leaving everything behind, including his best friend Rowdy. He runs from the place that makes him feel comfortable, to a strange school where he is the only Indian and continues to be bullied; like he was on the reservation. Arnold knew the second he told Rowdy that he is leaving, that his “best friend had now become...worst enemy” (page 53).This time he didn’t have Rowdy. He cries that Rowdy “is going to start hating...as much as all the others” (page 23). He made a choice to leave his best friend in the world behind. Without his protection, safety net, and confidant, Arnold feels frightened walking into the unknown; even though he is excited for the new. This is his chance to start over and gain the respect he is desperately longing for. Along with the battle of living without his best friend, Arnold endures the hardship of feeling alienated by everyone at his new school, Reardon. Arnold knows that he is different. He is the only Indian and he is poor. This is a difficult situation for him and this has a strong emotional impact on him when the kids at school find out. “Yes, I’m poor” he admits to Penelope, as he loathes his family for making him poor. Arnold accepts the ridicule he faces in light of his differences and learns a valuable life lesson. A positive aspect of following his dream is learning that there are people out there that will love him no matter what and will never judge him. The friends that he makes at Reardon accept him for who he is, a poor Indian, while his best friend on the reservation can’t even accept him for pursuing his dream. It is clear that as much as Arnold has to sacrifice to do what he felt he had to, he gains from the experience as well.

Arnold proves that despite our history and the boundaries that exist in life, everyone can break the mold if they are dear on their goals and have the encouragement and support to pursue them. This is exactly what Arnold did. He was guided by those close to him especially his teacher. Mr. P proves to Arnold that he is the one who has to make a difference and be the one to leave the reservation. Arnold made a new mold for the generations that would follow him. He entered a new world with a bright future ahead of him and new and meaningful relationships.

Essay Outline
Topic: #3. Arnold claims his sister Mary was ‘trying to live out her dream’ when she runs away to Montana. What do we learn about the themes of courage and determination from the various characters in the book? Support your insights with examples and textual evidence.

Thesis Statement: Determination and the courage to exercise it will lead to a life of fulfillment.

Paragraph 1: One has to understand his dreams and goals.

Paragraph 2: One has to have the support to feel that they can do anything.

Paragraph 3: One has to be courageous enough to face the consequences of actually living out their dreams.

Self Assessment
When I began writing this essay, I was convinced it would be exactly like all the essays we wrote in grade eleven. The only difference was that I was used to picking my own topic of discussion, and making up my own thematic statement from the chosen topic. However, for this essay we were handed a choice of topic questions which I found made it much harder to write this essay. I constantly kept wondering if I chose the right topic. I actually changed my mind once and tried to use a different topic, but I ended up using the original one I chose. I found it extremely hard to use a given topic rather than formulating one on my own.

In addition, I am very proud that I gave myself ample amount of time to edit and review my essay. I had several people read it and edit it as well as give me advice on how to make it the best possible. I am very happy with my choice of topic and I am very confident with the essay I wrote to support it.

For the final essay we are writing in class, as our exam, I am going to try an include more literary techniques in my essay, as I feel like it would be an interesting way to support my arguments along with quotations from the book.