Indian Killer: Analysis

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, Sherman Alexie, White people Pages: 8 (2971 words) Published: February 17, 2014
Analysis: Indian Killer
Sherman Alexie paints the reader a picture in his book Indian Killer. He uses every possible element to his advantage. This includes his use of structure and form. Alexie uses these two elements in the shape of flashbacks, dreams and dream-like situations, the beginning compared to the end of the book, and the order in which events progress through the plot line.

Within the story, Alexie utilizes flashbacks to bring the reader closer to the characters. The flashbacks are used give the reader some insight into the past and let the reader see how the characters are brought up and raised. When the reader looks into a characters past, they can find the particular struggles the characters went through and the reader can also get a feel for what their life has been like. In the case of John Smith, the reader observes that John has had a hard time coming to terms with his separation from his tribe and never really feels like he belongs with Olivia and Daniel. In the case of Jack Wilson, Jack is suffering from much the same situation as John. Jack is orphaned and searching to belong. He takes refuge in his study of Native American culture. Jack even goes to the extreme of inventing a distant Shilshomish relative.

Alexie also uses flashbacks to introduce readers to new characters. The most predominant character introduced in this way is the Jesuit, Father Duncan. Father Duncan is never actually brought into the story as a live character, he exists only in John’s hallucinations and memories. Alexie also introduces Aaron and David Roger’s father through the use of David’s flashbacks. David’s flashbacks of his father portray a vivid image and correlation of his father’s hatred and racism toward Indians. This racism is engulfed in his brother’s thought processes throughout the book.

Alexie accomplishes two things through his use of dreams and dream-like states. First, he uses what is described as a dream-like state to convey John’s sickly hallucinations. John has developed a case of schizophrenia in which he has very violent hallucinations. Because Alexie puts the reader right into the characters head, they have the opportunity to experience what John does during these episodes. John becomes very angry and he hears drums beating loudly. He usually sees father Duncan walking through the desert looking for water. John also becomes violent during these episodes and finally decides that it is his job to kill the right white man after one of his episodes.

Secondly, Alexie uses dreams in his book to give the reader a peek at what the characters are really feeling, even on the subconscious level. In one circumstance, Alexie uses the dreams of John’s boss, the foreman, to convey the fear that most white people feel around Indians on a subconscious level. In another circumstance, the reader can see the worry of John’s father for his lost son when he has a dream about his son turning up in his room and even states to his wife that he can smell John, showing the reader the power that their own subconscious can have over their bodies.

Alexie writes his books in such an order that the reader always knows more than the characters but at the same time is forced to feel the pain felt by the characters. This is because Alexie does not allow the reader to know more than the characters until later in the book. One such example is the death of David Rogers. When David is killed, the reader is left to assume that the Indian Killer was the culprit. The characters in the book also believe this and David’s brother is driven mad with grief. Aaron Rogers begins to assault innocent Indians and the reader can, to some extent, relate and understand these outbursts. Later in the book however, the reader leans that David Rogers was killed by two random white guys and his death alone was not even relevant to the story.

From the beginning of the book until the end of the book, the reader’s main focus is...
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