Modernism vs Traditionalism in "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"

Topics: Modern history, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, South Korea Pages: 5 (1598 words) Published: December 11, 2013
Commentary on the contrast in the novel "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie between modern ideals and traditional.

Society plays a large role in everyday lives- it can dictate how one should think and act in as the “popular opinion”. With this idea in mind it is easy to think that thoughts and opinions are in unison within the world, yet this is not the case. A vast range of ethics and morals spread across the population of Earth there are bound to be both unanimous decisions and conflicts. The most pressing in aspects current events in countries around the world would be the argument of modernism and traditionalism. Progression in the world of today is not always met with open arms, and at times new ideas are rejected in favor of perpetuating the traditional way of life and its values. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian helps illustrate the timeless conflict between modern ideas and traditional values. History is the account of events that had occurred in the past- and some people believe that traditional values should become a part of it rather than an active part of today’s world. Others do not support modern ideas and advocate for the opposite and more often than not, both these opinions are present with one another and often with ignorance on both sides. In South Korea, this disagreement is currently deciding the future of their country. Earlier this year, the southeastern country had experienced a demographic shift- in influx of non-Korean immigrant that is prompting the society to decide whether it should be accepting of this change and acclimate to the new or stay with their traditional values (Choe 1). The majority of its citizens did not accept the outsiders and xenophobic views were frequently observed (Choe 1). As a formerly homogenous society, inexperience and a lack of knowledge regarding multi-ethnic etiquette as well as tolerance can be sourced as the cause of this “fear” (Choe 2). It was an ignorant public acting prejudice towards immigrants and segregating in social aspects. Cultural pride also prevents acceptance as the “all-Korean” blood within the country is valued and the idea of recognizing where outsiders fit in is difficult for the natives (Choe 2). While unaccepting attitudes are frequently observed, many Koreans believe that the change in demographic within the country is favorable: “It’s time to redefine a Korean,” said Kim Yi-seon, chief researcher on multiculturalism at the government-financed Korean Women’s Development Institute. “Traditionally, a Korean meant someone born to Korean parents in Korea, who speaks Korean and has Korean looks and nationality. People don’t think someone is a Korean just because he has a Korean citizenship.” (Choe 1). Inexperience regarding “outsiders” in terms of race and ethnic background were observed in South Korea, but it was also seen in Sherman Alexie’s book. The main character, Junior, had experienced ignorance-based prejudice. The student body at Rearden High School did not know what actual Indians were like- their only information being from the countless stereotypes involving spear-carrying painted warriors- and as a result treated Junior as though he were a novelty. A certain level of respect is asked of between people, especially when communicating with one another. The students around Junior had believed anything he said about “Indians”, regardless of whether it was true or not without further inquiry- regardless of how far-fetched it was (Alexie 120). Like something akin to a traveling circus, the student body and teachers only see Junior as an Indian from the reservation down the road instead of just another kid (Alexie 86). While the decision as to whether or not the school body should accept him did not stand as an issue, the “new” idea of accepting Junior as another person rather than a novelty item was. The disagreement between modernization- globalization, cultural diffusion, new...

Cited: Sherman, Alexie. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009. Print.
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Choe, Sang-Hun. "In Changing South Korean, Who Counts as 'Korean '?." New York Times 29 11 2012, A14. Web. 11 December 2012.
Lauer, Helen. "Rethinking 'Tradition vs. Modernity: The Social Construction of the 'HIV/AIDS Crisis ' in Africa." Culture Today. 2006: 2-20. Web. 12 December 2012.
Li, Tao. "Philosophic Perspective: A Comparative Study of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine." Asian Social Science 2. (2011): 198-201. ProQuest. Web. 18 December 2012.
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