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Book Review:The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Alexie (2009),
The passage provides a reflection of the main plot and theme of the novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Alexie (2009), which points to the relationship between two cultures. The two cultures are a dominant one culture and a subjugated one. This relationship is rife with conflict based on the perceptions of each culture in relation to the other. The dominating culture is reflected by the arrogance typical of cultures with a superiority complex, while the subjugated one is dominated with feelings of outright hatred and open hostility. The title of the novel, ‘‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian”, basically tries to put the perspective of one culture, the Indian culture, to the focus. However, this is not entirely a true Indian perspective because the term, “part time Indian is suggestive of a limited version of the Indian perspective because of various reasons. Chief among these reasons would be a case of adaptation of the dominating culture but still being part and parcel of your own. This basically is what is going to form our discourse on this passage.
As introduced earlier, the plot of the novel is cultural and consists of different levels of conflicts. In particular, there is the intercultural conflict which is reflected so well in the passage showing the encounter between the two cultures in a game of basketball. The WellPoint five players are representative of the dominating white culture while the jeering crowds are those of the subjugated culture which is shown open hostility at the sight of the Wellpinit players who are symbols of the white culture.
The passage also presents us with the opportunity to find various themes of intercultural relationships. This comes up very well by the encounters of the protagonist and Penelope, who is, presumably, his girlfriend and Rowdy. The encounter between the protagonist and Penelope shows a deep emotional attachment between the two while that of between the protagonist and Rowdy who plays for the Wellpinit shows that of friendship and rivalry.
Another theme that clearly comes up is that of family life and the relationships within the various individuals in the family. The protagonist shows the relationship he has with his father and that between his father and mother. This is a theme that clearly comes out of the passage in the context of the novel as a whole.
Aspects of Narrative Theory
The Ohio State University (2016) states that narrative theory starts from the assumption that narrative is a basic human strategy for coming to terms with fundamental elements of our experience, such as time, process, and change, and it proceeds from this assumption to study the distinctive nature of narrative and its various structures, elements, uses, and effects. The protagonist tries to position the reader to have a fair amount of knowledge and be able to understand his experience by the use of narrative and language features which sets him apart from the expected tone and expressions. He uses humor, metaphors, tone, dialogue, description and figurative language to give the reader a general idea about his experience both at the family level and the social circles. His language is not the language one would expect of a native inhabitant but is laced and influenced by the tone and expressions of the white culture which reside amongst them. His strategies of trying to bring out and express his ideas clearly indicate the type of individual he is. Further, his experiences, and how he is making sense of the world in which he is living in the usage of certain words in particular ways shows how he perceives himself and the world around him.
In his narrative, the author employs different forms of expressions which really capture the intent of the protagonist to the reader. By closely associating himself with expressions which are alien to his people, he is in essence saying that he is an Indian, but he is also white at the same time. White here does not mean his ancestry but the lifestyle he has adopted and the way he perceives things. Moreover, he uses humor to the desired effect when he said that he is going to play like a boner. This actually means that he is going to play carelessly because he knew his girlfriend was watching him. This shows the love that he has for his girlfriend. He also tries to position the reader to know that he is in fact not an enemy.
Identity, Inter-sectionality and Matrix of Domination
Purdie (2008), describes intersectionality as the study of intersections between different groups of minorities; specifically, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression or discrimination. The protagonist is deemed to be struggling to reconcile his indigenous culture with the dominant white culture by trying to integrate into the white cultures realm. He tries hard to be integrated in the white culture that nearly all his social activities are influenced by the white culture. A good example is when he goes for games, picnics or concerts which are not usual to his local indigenous people. This can be seen by this way of life and how he views his family.
Furthermore, his general attitude based on his narrative is that of viewing himself as being now more organized by virtue of him doing all those social activities like playing basketball, going for picnics or concerts or the many social activities that he is involved in which are alien to his indigenous community. The fact that he tries to involve his family into these activities is seen as struggling very hard to integrate his family circle into the white culture. Another issue is the cross cultural relationships he has formed around him. There is his girlfriend Penelope who is white and so is Rowdy, his basketball rival, who is also his friend. The protagonist, in this case, has lost his identity by trying to identify with the white culture which is so different from his own.
Intersectionality is a methodology of studying "the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relationships and subject formations"(Warner, 2003). The protagonist’s main intention of interacting with the white culture, shows a strategy of integration whose main objective is to counter the negative feeling of being oppressed by interacting with his ‘‘oppressor’’ in order to gain some dignity. He is engaging himself in every aspect of the white culture and ignoring his own culture in the process. He cannot understand his father neither can he understand his mother. They are now all alien to him because he has lost his identity in trying to adapt into a culture that is not his. It is somehow like trying to appease someone for doing no wrong in the first place. The protagonist has been assimilated into the white culture and he is now acting, not as an Indian, but as the white cultured man.
The Matrix of Domination tries to deal with oppression issues especially with regard to race, gender, class which are all interconnected. There are other methods of classification such as religion, sexual orientation, or age. There are many different ways of experiencing domination where one obstacle such as race may move together with other social features. The matrix of domination clearly manifests itself in the excerpt by looking at how the indigenous community reacted to the team as it entered the playing court. This can be seen as a form of oppression based on racial differences and which affected this particular community. The crowd saw in the team a symbol of oppression and openly showed their hostility and defiance towards this team. This defiance was not localized to the on the basis that it was competing with their own but because it symbolized the white culture in which most of the indigenous people saw as oppressive. Also to be considered is the superiority complex that some groups have over others. The dominating culture will obviously look down upon the subjugated culture. They will take them as inferior. This is the attitude that can be seen on Rowdy over his rival in the basketball court. He does not believe that the protagonist is capable of beating him in a game of basketball because believes that the protagonist is inferior. In addition, his remarks are actually laced with some aspects of racial connotations.
What others Think about Narratives
Examining the protagonist, it is clear that he has narrated what he thinks he is to the reader. He thinks he is a bit better than most of his natives because of his interactions with the white culture which he adores. He looks at his father as an undependable drunk and has a high regard for himself now that he is relating with the white culture. According to McAdams et al Life stories do not simply reflect personality, they are personality or more accurately, they are important parts of personality, along with other parts, like dispositional traits, goals and values’’. It therefore, reinforces the fact that the narrations of the protagonist are his personality or a part of his personality which he is narrating to us. It represents his true self and should be viewed as such. Floya (2016) assistant professor of psychology at Olin college of engineering postulates that, the default of human cognition is narrative mode.
In this passage, it is apparent that the protagonist is living in a community which is subjugated by a dominating culture in which he has fully embraced owing to how he relates cross-culturally. His associations and activities are testimony enough to prove that he has been assimilated into the white culture. Further, he has lost his identity by adapting to a different culture and is struggling to reconcile his indigenous community's culture with that of the white culture by trying to pull his family into accepting the white culture and its lifestyle.