What Does It Mean: the Lone Ranger and Tonto

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What does it mean to be an Indian? First of all you have to be a warrior and to look like a warrior, to look “stoic”, secondly you have to be connected with Mother Earth by understanding the sound of nature and what it wants to say, then you necessarily have to have visions, to ride horses and to hunt buffalos. This is what most of the people think when they say “Indian”. But Sherman Alexie ,in his volume “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” and then the movie Smoke Signals based on one story from this volume- Thus Is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona- try to present the image of the real Indian in the real life and work against this “formerly-held stereotypes to form a new, uniquely Spokane identity” all these in a humorous, ironic manner. Alexie, in his volume tries to reinvent the way back to tradition of the modern Indians. They are people with double identity who don’t know how to report themselves to their traditions, how to react towards it, what is important and what is less important. Sometimes, in most of the cases, they make fun of their history and traditions and realize that now ,they are totally different and that they have to live in the real life although sometimes we sense a feeling of melancholy towards the past, because then ,the Indians had a role, a purpose, now , they have nothing “it is too late to be warriors in the old way. All horses are gone”. Now they have only stereotypes to face, alcohol to survive and broken dreams .”Alexie's characters confront the dilemma of how to be "real Indians," of how to find "their true names, their adult names" , of how to find a warrior dignity and courage when it is "too late to be warriors in the old way", of how to ameliorate what Adrian C. Louis has termed "the ghost-pain of history" --that haunting sense of personal and cultural loss that generates a paralyzing” .(Jerome Denuccio) The characters Alexie has created are aware of the stereotypes that are commonly associated with them and they are working to make fun of and unmask the traditional conception of the Indian character. In the end this is what Alexie wanted: to accomplish a criticism of the stereotypical portrayal of Indian life. In an interview Alexie criticizes the traditional Native American literature and its writers who wrote “wish fulfillment books” .He even indicates N. Scott Momaday’ Pulitzer Prize winning “House Made of Dawn” .The struggles of his character are different from Abel’s –the main character on Momaday, and the solutions they find to understand their identity are also different because “they are Indians who do not fit the traditional mold of Indian character”. We are shown the anguish the characters experience when Thomas-Builds-The-Fire compares time with skeletons. "Your past is a skeleton walking one step behind you, and your future is a skeleton walking one step in front of you." Indians, thus, are always "trapped in the now." But the skeletons are "not necessarily evil, unless you let them be." Because "these skeletons are made of memories, dreams, and voices," and because they are "wrapped up in the now," it becomes imperative to "keep moving, keep walking, in step with your skeletons."( Jerome DeNuccio)) This comparison demonstrates that Alexie is trying to make their characters get out of the trap of the suspended Indian, the one with no connection to reality. The story “This is what it means to say Phoenix, Arizona” presents the journey of Victor and Thomas to obtain the remains of Victor’s dead father. In the text Alexie subverts the stereotypes of Indians again with trikery and irony. The film, Smoke Signals is mostly based on the story and all the characters are interpreted by native American actors. ”The film is so relaxed about its characters, so much at home in their world, that we sense it’s an inside job”. While Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven was a series of discrete stories about a single group of characters, the film attempts to render...
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