Poverty is being put in a horrible situation that one has very little chance of escape facing hardships and tragedies due to the abuse of alcohol and other substances. In Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian Alexie emphasizes the hardships and tragedies that one is faced whilst living in poverty while going further to foreground the alcoholic experience or abuse one is almost bound to face while living in poverty. On the Indian reservations, people tend to experience alcohol-based tragedies, either within themselves and homes or within the community.
In the novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Alexie depicts the characters who experience alcohol related tragedies due to the life of poverty on the reservation. Alexie shows this experience by taking the reader through a systematic journey in the life of Junior Spirit an Indian teen living on an Indian reservation, while attending an all-white school. Alexie contributes to this through the experiences and alcohol related tragedies of the characters Rowdy, Grandmother Spirit, and Junior Spirit. Firstly, Juniors best friend Rowdy who faces a backlash of living in poverty by being continuously abused by his alcoholic father and resorting to anything to escape his home. Secondly, Juniors Grandmother who had died a tragic death by being hit and killed by a drunk driver.
Lastly, Junior, the narrator and main character of the novel who faces the aftermath of living in poverty as he loses all the people he loves in a matter of months due to the hardships of poverty and his community’s decision to resort to alcohol. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Alexie evidently shows that while living in poverty you are almost bound to face some form of alcohol based tragedy whether the experience is direct or indirect, Alexie contributes to this through the characters of Rowdy, Grandmother Spirit, and Junior Spirit, this suggests that poverty on the reservation becomes a big part of the abuse of alcohol on the reservation leading to the most tragic events taking place in the novel. This is important to all the Indians on reservations who face these alcohol-based tragedies through their everyday lives.
Firstly, Rowdy is Juniors best friend who faces some of the worst sides of poverty with his abusive and alcoholic father. Rowdy is a damaged kid, coming from a home of domestic abuse and violence. Rowdy’s home life and the fact that his father is emotionally and physically abusive is no secret on the reservation, “His father is drinking hard and throwing hard punches, so Rowdy and his mother are always walking around with bruised and bloody faces. ‘It’s war paint,’ Rowdy always says. ‘It just makes me look tougher'” (Alexie 16). It becomes evident to the reader that Rowdy’s home life is no surprise to the rest of the reservation and Rowdy has no problem with using it to his advantage.
Insecure about himself and feels that need to bully and hurt others to be sure that others will not hurt him the way his father does to him. The reader begins to notice that Rowdy appreciates friendship more than anything and relies of Junior as a friend to get away from his family when his father is drunk and is “Throwing hard punches”. Junior implies that the difficulty Rowdy has expressing his emotions and communicate with friends stems from his father’s abusive behavior when he gets drunk. This kind of domestic abuse is more common on the reservation than it is in Reardon a community that is not affected by poverty at all, and physical violence being a generaly an expected and an encouraged part of reservation life, as Junior says these actions unfold according to the unwritten rules of rerservation life. Alexie enhances the fact that physical abuse is common on the reservation that as Junior starts attending Reardon, he is shocked to discover that physical fights are completely unknown to the community and is rare to encounter someone who is under the influence out in the open, where on the reservation it is common to experience alcoholic encounters anywhere even at a playground meant for children where Rowdy and Junior find beer bottles. Alexie makes it clear that the difference in the abuse of alcohol between the two communities is mainly caused due to the poverty on the reservation and the need to escape reality by resorting to alcohol affecting Rowdy directly in a physical and emotional way.
In addition to Rowdy’s connections between his father’s physical and emotional abuse due to poverty, alcohol, and violence on the reservation, Rowdy shows the need to hurt others on the reservation. Rowdy often resorts to fistfights and vandalism over conversation when he is provoked. Rowdy’s alcoholic father beats him and Rowdy will resort to anything to make the pain go away, “There are all kinds of addicts, I guess. We all have pain. And we all look for ways to make the pain go away” (107). In this quotation, Junior implies that everyone has pain and look for ways to get away from it or look for ways make themselves feel better. Rowdy has a lot of pain between his alcoholic father who beats him regularly and his inability to make friends in spite of his bad communication skills caused by the abuse his father puts upon him.
Rowdy resorts to his best friend Junior to make his pain go away. Junior leaves the school on the reservation to go to the all-white school off the reservation called Reardon, this causes Rowdy to discontinue his relationship with Junior because he feels that if he does not end the relationship first Junior will drift off and leaving him abandoned. As this occurs, the reader begins to notice Rowdy’s choice to resort to violence to make his pain go away.
Rowdy comes from an alcoholic and abusive home where he needs to escape but as Junior leaves Rowdy begins to bully Junior to make himself feel better. Rowdy has a need to get away from his pain caused by alcohol and loses his best friend because of his inability to communicate resorting to violence to make himself feel better.Secondly, Grandmother Spirit is Junior’s grandmother. Junior describes her as a wise, independent, and tolerant human being, and throughout the novel, Junior calls her his “Favorite person in the world”. Grandmother Spirit refrains from drinking alcohol because of what it has done to so many of her tribespeople but ends up facing one of the worst sides to rampant alcohol abuse on the reservation.
In a tragic way, she loses her life because of alcohol on the reservation after being hit by a drunk driver. Unfairly losing her life because of alcohol on the reservation. Junior implies, “But my family had to bury my grandmother.
I mean, it’s natural to bury your grandmother. Grandparents are supposed to die first, but they’re supposed to die of old age. They’re supposed to die of a heart attack or a stroke or of cancer or of Alzheimer’s. THEY ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO GET RUN OVER AND KILLED BY A DRUNK DRIVER!” (Alexie 158). This quotation indicates that the reservation consists of many unhappy alcoholics who need to escape reality, causing the life a loved member of the community to die.
The reader begging to notice the ironic fact that Grandmother Spirit dies from something she never wanted to get close to because she knew it might take away the good things in her life. The reader notices that though she lost her life because of alcohol she does not let it ruin the drunk driver’s life as she uses her last words to forgive him implying that he already has a hard life as it is and that it is most likely the reason he chose to drink. Alexie makes it obvious to the reader that one of the most tragic moments for all in the story were caused because of alcohol and poverty. In addition to the tragic moment that takes away the life of Grandmother Spirit, and is the reason everyone on the reservation is unhappy, that is due to the use and abuse and alcohol.
Additionally, to the death of Grandmother Spirit who dies due to a drunk driver, is the way the community grieves over her death. After the death of Juniors Grandmother, Junior notices that no one is willing to change their lifestyles and take out the root of the unhappiness and tragedy, that is the use of alcohol, “Gordie, the white boy genius, gave me this book by a Russian dude named Tolstoy, who wrote, ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ Well, I hate to argue with a Russian genius, but Tolstoy didn’t know Indians, and he didn’t know that all Indian families are unhappy for the same exact reasons: the frikkin’ booze” (Alexie 245).
Everyone has their grievances but they relate to one issue, which is the use of alcohol. The three greatest tragedies in Junior’s life have been the death of his sister, Grandmother, and Eugene. All three deaths are caused by alcohol.
A drunk driver strikes his Grandmother. Eugene is shot arguing over the last drink of wine. His sister dies after a night of heavy drinking when her trailer home catches on fire.
These events all revolved around alcohol and its effects on the reservation. All these tragic moments that occur in the novel including the death of Grandmother Spirit greatly hurting the community and can all be rooted back to the abuse of alcohol.Lastly, Junior, who faces many tragic losses due to the use and abuse of alcohol. Junior is very passionate when it comes to his feelings about the uncontrold alcohol abuse on the reservation. He has expeirenced forst hand how the abuse of alcohol has ruined the lives of a number of many of his family and friends on the resrvation, he claims that about ninety percent of the forty-two funerals he has throughout his young life to his teen years were all caused because of alcohol related act’s. Throughout the novel Junior loses many of the people he loves including, His grandmother, his dad’s best friend Eugene, and his only sister, Mary, who all died tragic deaths that are all rooted back to alcohol in some way.
After the funeral of his sister Mary, Junior cries, expressing his thoughts, “I was crying for my tribe, too. I was crying because I knew five or ten or fifteen more Spokane’s would die during the next year, and that most of them would die because of booze” (216). The reader begins to notice the motivation that these tragedies bring to Junior as they make him more motivated to get off the reservation, which he thinks of it as a “Death camp”. It becomes apparent to the reader that the reason Junior belives alcoholism is the reason all the people are all-unhappy on his reservation, and it is the fact that alchol causes this unhappiness the families face. Junior’s dad, Arnold Spirit, is an alcoholic who disappears for days at a time even on Christmas somedays. However, unlike Rowdy’s father, Junior’s dad is not physically abusive but Junior does not appreciate the emotional abuse his alcoholic father brings to him at times.
Eugene, who is Junior’s dad’s friend, dies due to the alcholic love that is on the reservation, he is an alcoholic who is shot in the face over the last sip of a bottle of wine. Alcoholism is completely responsible for most of the tragedy that Junior and his family face and the reason his family is unhappy. Junior’s grandmother, who is ran over and killed by a drunk driver. Moreover, Mary is burned to death after her and her husband are incautious from drinking so much alcohol. It becomes obvious that alcoholism is the cause of these tragedies. The reader is enlightened that drinking is so dominant on the reservation because Indians have been alienated and abandoned from society, resorting to alcohol to escape their poverty-filled reality of life. Junior refuses to let past suffering of the tragedies he faces serve as an excuse to justify present mistakes of drinking or the use of other substances. After Mary’s death, he promises his mom he will never drink and is still confused that after all these tragedies, no one is willing to change their way of life and they continue to drink even though drinking and the abuse of alcohol are the main source of the unhappiness built into the reservation.
In addition to the hardships and tragedies that Junior faces as he loses some of the most important people in his life due to alcohol, is when Junior gets beat up by the other drunks on the reservation. Junior faces many problems with his appearance and struggles with bullying all the time. Junior explains how he is always being harassed and bullied by other drunks on his reservation. He has had continuous encounters with drunk men tortuously beating him up and calling him names due to his physical condition. In this quotation, Junior explains how he does not want to go to the Spokane Tribe 127th annual powwow because he is afraid of the drunks he might have to face, “I wanted no part of it. Oh, the dancing and singing are great. Beautiful in fact, but I am afraid of all the Indians who aren’t dancers and singers. Those rhymeless, talentless, tuneless Indians are most likely going to get drunk and beat the sh-t out of any available loser.
And I am always the most available loser” (Alexie 17).The reader is enlightened that drinking is so dominant on the reservation because Indians have been alienated and abandoned from society, resorting to alcohol to escape their poverty-filled reality of life. Junior refuses to let past suffering of the tragedies he faces serve as an excuse to justify present mistakes of drinking or the use of other substances. After Mary’s death, he promises his mom he will never drink and is still confused that after all these tragedies, no one is willing to change their way of life and they continue to drink even though drinking and the abuse of alcohol are the main source of the unhappiness built into the reservation.
In addition to the hardships and tragedies that Junior faces as he loses some of the most important people in his life due to alcohol, is when Junior gets beat up by the other drunks on the reservation. Junior faces many problems with his appearance and struggles with bullying all the time. Junior explains how he is always being harassed and bullied by other drunks on his reservation. He has had continuous encounters with drunk men tortuously beating him up and calling him names due to his physical condition. In this quotation, Junior explains In conclusion, poverty is being put into a hard situation facing continuous alcoholic related hardships and tragedies.
Alexie shows this by taking the reader through a systematic journey of Junior spirit with his friends and family including, Rowdy, and Grandmother Spirit, and the narrator Junior Spirit, who all face tragedies that stem from alcohol. Firstly, Rowdy, who faces a backlash of living in poverty by being continuously abused by his alcoholic father and develops an insecure personality due to the lifestyle he is living in. Secondly, Grandmother Spirit who loses her life to a tragic death of being hit and killed by a drunk driver. Lastly, Junior, who faces the aftermath of living in poverty as he loses all the people he loves in a matter of months, additionally to that are the drunk encounters he faces from other Indians on his reservation due to the hardships of poverty that all stem from the alcohol abuse and poverty lifestyles on the reservation.
Throughout The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the reader is enlightened on the disadvantages that one faces while living on the poverty- filled Indian reservations facing tragedies and lifestyles that no child or person should ever have to face on a daily basis.