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The Story ‘This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona’ by Sherman Alexie Essay

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Updated: Jan 12th, 2022

Introduction

Included into Lone Ranger and Tonto: Fistfight in Heaven, the story called This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona is one of those reflecting the life and traditions of Native Americans through children’s eyes. Their different conflicts are unveiled by the author in the story. All of them are true to life. The reader is able to indulge in the story and the protagonists’ relations due to cohesive and captivating narration. This paper will analyze several conflicts addressed by Sherman Alexie. The story is an amazing presentation of the friends’ reunion because of the dramatic events in Victor’s life with the cultural revival in the background of the entire story. The two protagonists Victor and Thomas Builds-the-Fire underwent serious reconsideration of the state of friendship with the help of the culture they belonged to.

The Trip Begins

One of the main features and conflicts presented in a story is the relationship between Thomas Builds-the-Fire and Victor. Those two made friends after Victor’s father’s death over again. Importantly, when in childhood, the two protagonists used to be good friends and with the span of time something changed and now Victor does not even feel like talking to Thomas Builds-the-Fire in the street until he finds himself in an economically disadvantageous position. His father dies from a heart attack and he has to find money to travel all the way to Phoenix, Arizona. Not only does the trip cost a fortune, finding the right person to travel with is a hard task. Therefore, the author unveils the inconvenience of the situation when the Indian tribe council refuses to sponsor the entire journey and takes his father’s ashes back. So, Victor is forced to address Thomas Builds-the-Fire and the story of old friends restarts. The main conflict described is the difference in life views and behavioral attitudes. It is explained that what Thomas Builds-the-Fire does is tell the stories while people are getting tired to listen to them or not listen at all. He is not the kind of respected person in the tribe and so everyone avoids having any business with him. The social opinion takes over Victor, as well. They used to have friends back in the days, whereas now Victor feels uncomfortable traveling to Phoenix with a person he had a fistfight with.

Title’s Double Meaning

The title of the story is very sound for revealing the actual theme brought up by the author. While the trip to Phoenix initially implies dramatic circumstances, another meaning brought up by the author is totally opposite – reunion with a friend. Mutual apologies and one road to Phoenix will set all the misunderstandings straight. This is amazing how a common road can bring back together with a person without faith in his culture and traditions and a totally Native American storyteller. Interestingly enough, Sherman Alexie managed to revive the meaning of traditions through the characters of a short story; he found a new way to bring to life old traditions through new ways. The author brilliantly puts forward the symbols of money and lonely jackrabbit for the reader to be able to trace the altering relationships between the two protagonists that reconsider the state of their friendship. The symbol of money clearly indicates how it can push a person to unusual actions, like Victor took money from Thomas Builds-the-Fire, although no one took him seriously because of the same damn stories he was always telling over and over again. However, it was a great breakthrough for both heroes; moreover, Thomas Builds-the-Fire showed a true sign of friendship requesting nothing in return for his sponsorship.

Cultural Importance

The third point the author conveys through his writing is the actual tradition and culture meaning to Native Americans. This is absolutely spectacular how Sherman Alexie presents the story of friendship with the culture’s huge but unnoticed impact. Through the dramatic and touching story of two adult men, the role of traditions and culture is seen clearly when you look at the situation closely. Although Victor stopped taking Thomas seriously with all his stories, the trip unveils true notions of the traditions of the Native Americans. Constant reminding of his own culture made Victor look at those from a new perspective, though he was negatively affected by the contemporary surroundings, totally forgetting about his roots. The culture and traditions were a hard thing to think about for Victor because he remembered his father being constantly drunk (Indians were drinking all the time) and left him and the mother one day. This was the significant thing that remained in Victor’s memory and maybe this was the reason he hated and refused to follow the Indian traditions – he had nothing warm to recall. That is why Thomas Builds-the-Fire set a trip together, to make Victor understand he was a Native American whose culture and traditions are so alive and vivid that cannot be simply forgotten.

Conclusion

The protagonists’ friendship underwent serious reconsideration throughout the entire trip not without the help of culture and traditions’ recollections. The author clearly unveils the notion of culture that plays a very important role in every person’s life and appeals to not forget the roots.

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IvyPanda. (2022, January 12). The Story ‘This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona’ by Sherman Alexie. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-story-this-is-what-it-means-to-say-phoenix-arizona-by-sherman-alexie/

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IvyPanda. (2022, January 12). The Story ‘This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona’ by Sherman Alexie. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-story-this-is-what-it-means-to-say-phoenix-arizona-by-sherman-alexie/

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"The Story ‘This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona’ by Sherman Alexie." IvyPanda, 12 Jan. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/the-story-this-is-what-it-means-to-say-phoenix-arizona-by-sherman-alexie/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Story ‘This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona’ by Sherman Alexie." January 12, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-story-this-is-what-it-means-to-say-phoenix-arizona-by-sherman-alexie/.


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IvyPanda. "The Story ‘This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona’ by Sherman Alexie." January 12, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-story-this-is-what-it-means-to-say-phoenix-arizona-by-sherman-alexie/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "The Story ‘This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona’ by Sherman Alexie." January 12, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-story-this-is-what-it-means-to-say-phoenix-arizona-by-sherman-alexie/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'The Story ‘This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona’ by Sherman Alexie'. 12 January.

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