Talking about the relationships between Americans and the Natives has never been easy, mostly because of the notorious historic events that took place during the colonization of America, and the following misunderstandings between the Native Americans and the descendants of the colonists that took place afterward.
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There is no need to remind of the conditions that reservations for the Native Americans provided; the laws generated by the American Congress often resulted in poverty and lack of life essentials for the Indian residents.
In her short story titled Every Little Hurricane, Sherman Alexie tells a seemingly simple story of a boy and his friend visiting their home in Spokane Reservation for a New Year celebration; however, when digging a bit deeper, one will find that Alexie, in fact, touches upon a range is serious cultural, economical and political issues that the residents of Indian reservations were facing at the time.
Despite a very complicated issue to tackle, Alexie does his job pretty well by introducing humor into his work in ample quantities. Weirdly enough, the numerous fun moments and comedic reliefs that the novel has worked for the advantage of the story and the characters’ arcs.
For instance, the conflict between the two uncles is pretty funny. The extremes that they go into to fight against each other are hilarious, as well as the misery that they put each other into: “Victor’s uncles were in the midst of a misdemeanor that would remain one even if somebody was to die” (Alexie 3).
Another great detail about the novel is that it does not take the political issues to their logical extremes, leaving the elements of racial and political issues in the shadow and allowing the characters to breathe and develop. The novel keeps its readers guessing all the time whether a particular detail was added to make the story more coherent or to portray the specifics of life in a reservation.
For instance, at some point, one of the main characters has nightmares about his father having a drinking problem (Alexie 6); disrupting the flow of the narration, it works both for the story and for the artistry of the novel. However, for almost every sad and thought-provoking moment or thought that there is in the book, there will always be a funny scene to balance it off.
The story never goes into dark moral overtones to prove a point for several reasons, the key one, perhaps, being the setting. There is a reason for Alexie to choose the New Year Eve as the setting for his story; the author picks a cheerful event to make it offset the serious issues that the author raises.
What makes Alexie’s story all the more believable and tragic is the fact that the author does not shy away from tackling very sensitive and controversial issues, such as the fact that the residents of the Spokane Reservation are also far from being flawless; moreover, Alexie stresses that they are quite irresponsible, often getting intoxicated and being very unwilling to change the state of affairs within the reservation.
Such details do not make the characters less likable or, for that matter, less compelling; instead, the fact that the characters do have flaws helps the readers relate to them, believing that these characters are real and that they deserve to have another chance. The description of the constantly arguing uncles, who cannot give each other any rest, for example, is pitch perfect: “The two Indians raged across the room at each other” (Alexie 2).
It is weird to think that people could go into such extremes in trying to triumph over the adversary; however, sadly enough, the two uncles in Alexie’s novel represent the relationships between Americans and Native Americans rather accurately, though quite grotesquely. Also, the lack of enthusiasm for finally settling the conflict among those concerned is also portrayed rather well, though, perhaps, a bit over the top:
“’ They’re going to kill each other!’ somebody yelled from an upstairs window. Nobody disagreed, and nobody moved to change the situation” (Alexie 3). The scenes like this show that the Indians living on reservations have been fighting their way to liberty and the ability to provide for themselves for several centuries running, yet these efforts seem to have been upsettingly fruitless.
One of the fascinating things about Alexie’s stories in general and the given short novel, in particular, is that they help the reader come to his/her conclusion by offering him/her a range of snapshots from the author’s life. Alexie does not foist his opinion about the policies towards Native Americans in the United States in the given period; neither does the author attempts at persuading the reader to take sides in the notorious conflict.
Instead, the author creates a unique atmosphere that his readers can immerse into by envisioning the subtle details that Alexie mentioned here and there in his novels. Another great opportunity to look at the specifics of life within a very close community, Alexie’s Every Little Hurricane is one of those stories that are most likely to grow timeless.
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Alexie, Serman 1994, “Every Little Hurricane.” The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fight in Heaven. PDF file. 11 Dec. 2013. <http://public.wsu.edu/~bryanfry/Alexie,%20Every%20Little%20Hurricane.pdf>.