Samuel Builds-the-Fire

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In Sherman Alexi’s book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, he creates a series of vignettes that he uses to describe the culture of modern Native Americans living on reservations. One of his primary techniques he uses to help reproduce the emotional and cultural strife is to create two-dimensional characters that he uses as a back-drop for the rest of the image he paints with the rest of the stories. Victor’s dad and his friend Thomas are two examples, but Alexi creates one exceptionally emphatic character in a story called “A Train is an Order of Occurrence Designed to Lead to Some Result,” which recounts the tale of Samuel Builds-the-Fire and the exaggerated effects of alcohol on reservation Indians. What sets Samuel apart from the rest of those on the reservation is that he is representative of how the original Native Americans used to be. He displays moral ideals and priorities that are markedly lost throughout the modern reservation. He works as “a maid at a motel on Third Avenue.” (page 130) and handles his job with passion that goes beyond what most would consider appropriate for a hotel maid. On his birthday, for example, “he didn’t expect any presents or party from his co-workers, from the management. Being really early to work that morning was a kind of gift to himself.” (page 130). Alexi also establishes that Samuel’s morals are based on old customs: “‘Tell us a story… ,’ his friends said. ‘And if it’s good, well give you ten bucks.’ ‘Twenty,’ Samuel said.

After telling the story, “Samuel opened his eyes and his friends cheered, gave him the twenty bucks… and bought each of his friends a hot dog.” (page 132-133) It goes without saying that if the same scenario had happened on the reservation today, Sam’s friends not only wouldn’t have wanted to hear a story, but wouldn’t have offered money even if they had wanted to, wouldn’t have given it to him even if the story was good, and even if they had, whoever received the money...
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