Marxism and An Absolutely true story of

Topics: Marxism, Social class, Sherman Alexie Pages: 14 (2424 words) Published: November 8, 2014

Junior’s Journey: An Exploration of Marxism On and Off the Reservation By Tony Ventola
LIT 650

Junior’s Journey: An Exploration of Marxism On and Off the Reservation By Tony Ventola

Sherman Alexie is Native American poet, novelist and filmmaker. He was born in 1966 on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. Much of Alexie’s body of work revolves around themes of American/Indian relations, alcoholism, poor living conditions, violence and many other challenges that come from living life on an Indian Reservation. Alexie does an excellent job of balancing out these serious subjects with a sense of humor and satire, which helps underscore a message of hope even in the darkest of times. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian focuses heavily on this idea of “hope.” The main character, Junior, is presented with the classic hero’s journey to find hope in a desolate world. Yet Junior will not go on to face intergalactic battle stations, wicked witches or super powered villains. Instead, Junior will have to do battle against centuries old cultural and societal struggles, poverty, and racism. Junior sets out to find hope amongst these challenges, and as his teacher, Mr. P tells him “You’re going to find more and more hope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad, sad reservation.” (Alexie 43) Having grown up on the Spokane reservation, then living a life as a successful writer, Alexie has to benefit of being able to analyze the culture of the American Indian versus the culture of “the white man” and see the vast differences in them, as well as their similarities. For this reason, among others, it is important to look at Alexie’s work with the cultural eye of the Marxist literary theory. Karl Marx sought to call out, define and ultimately fix the vast divides between social classes. While Marx was dealing with the bourgeoisie in Europe, Junior has to deal with the “hicks and rednecks” of Reardan High School. Looking through society with a Marxist lens shows that there is distinct difference between different levels of society often referred to as the lower, middle and upper class. With that being said, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian shows us that there is also a social structure at play on a micro level, and even though a person may move “up” the cultural ladder, it does not guarantee them the respect of those they leave behind. Junior struggles with his desire to grow past what his tribal community has dictated his life to be (a drunk, angry man on the reservation) as well as the expectations put on him by the white townsfolk (a violent, ignorant savage). Junior must be able to find a balance between his heritage and his desire for hope; this is a balance one can find being fought for in the teachings of Marxism.

Marxism 101
Before we can fully analyze The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and its Marist qualities, we must first understand what Marxism is. Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary. He wrote several works over the course of his lifetime including, The Communist Manifesto in 1848 and Das Capital (Capital) starting in 1867.

The interesting thing about Karl Marx is that he was not interested in literary theory or criticism. Marxism was “ostensibly a doctrine concerned more with economics and politics than with culture and literature.” (Rivkin and Ryan 644) Marxist theorists did, from time to time, comment on culture and art, but the western world did not see a large appearance of Marxist literary scholars until the 1960s and 1970s.

Karl Marx’s viewpoints helped define the socialist ideologies. Marx believed that wealth should be divided more equitably, that class differences should be abolished, and that society should be devoted to providing for everyone’s basic needs. This is in direct conflict with the basis of capitalism, which...

Cited: Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007.
Birchall, Ian H. "Marxism and Literature." Sociological Review (1977): 92.
Daly, Glyn. "Marxism and Postmarxism." Year 's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory (2002): 14-25.
Eagleton, Terry. "Marxist Literary Criticism." Sociological Review (1977): 85-91.
Evans, Stephen F. ""Open Containers": Sherman Alexie 's Drunken Indians." The American Indian Quarterly 25.1 (2001): 46-72.
Marx, Karl. "Wage Labor and Capital." Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 659-664.
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Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Edition. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.
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