Otherness in a nutshell is a feeling like one does not fit in for any number of reasons. Race, gender, sexuality, religion and appearance are just a few of the reasons. This is felt throughout life from childhood to adulthood. When you are in school it may be something as silly as your brand of shoes, you may not have the cool ones because your parents cannot afford them, so you get made fun of. Then here you are as an adult and it may be the car you drive or neighborhood you live in that gets you ostracized from your peers. The slight differences in people, as small as they seem, have separated people since the start of mankind. Otherness has led to seclusion, inequality and even hate.
I chose to read Sherman Alexie’s piece titled “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” This short story focused on the concept of otherness. The main character Victor has just learned of the loss of his estranged father. Victor, who is broke, needs to find a way to Phoenix, Arizona to claim some money and a pickup truck. After failing to come up with all the money, Victor runs into the town loony Thomas Build-a-Fire. Thomas was a childhood friend of Victor, but Thomas’s story telling put a rift in their relationship. Thomas agrees to give Victor the money only if he takes him along. The two then fly to Phoenix and exchange stories of their youth and put the past behind them.
Alexie puts otherness front and center in his short story. Alexie, I feel wrote this piece as an outlet to discuss how he has felt othered by society, mainly with being Native American. There are many levels of otherness, the first being that Victor and Thomas are Native Americans who throughout American history have suffered at the hand of our government. The otherness they feel is because of the oppression and segregation of the Native American people by our country. This is made obvious when they are celebrating the 4th of July as children and question why they are...
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