In the very first sentence of Sherman Alexie's "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona," you can assume that the main character, Victor, is facing a hard life. Not only did he lose his job, he also lost his father to a heart attack the same day. The story tells the journey of Victor and an old friend, Thomas Builds-the-Fire, traveling to Phoenix to pick up his father's ashes, pickup truck, and money from his savings account. Victor did not have any money and neither did anyone else living on the reservation, "Who does have money on a reservation, except the cigarette and fireworks sales-people?" (page 275) Victor has to turn to the tribal council for money, but they are also low on funds and can only give him one-hundred dollars. Thomas is considered the town’s outcast and he is the only one willing to help Victor. Victor goes on to say that he used to be friends with Thomas until they were about fifteen and then Victor turned his back on him because everyone else thought he was weird. He also talks about their childhood and the memories they share and the fact that Thomas knew about Victor’s father wanting to leave before it ever happened. “Once, when they were seven years old, when Victor’s father still lived with the family, Thomas closed his eyes and told Victor this story: “Your father’s heart is weak. He is afraid of his own family. He is afraid of you.” (page 275). Thomas ends up giving Victor the rest of the money he needs, but only if Victor allows Thomas to go along.
The author never really gives any physical traits, but you know he is an Indian, does not have a lot of money, just lost his father, and lives on a reservation. The author does not specially tell you how old Victor is. There is no mention of any other family besides his mother, “…and the rest of his family didn’t have any use at all for him.” (page 275) Even though Victor’s father did not play a big part in his life, “there still was a genetic pain, which was soon to be...
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