A Cultural Disassociation
InThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist/ight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexie, the three short stories, "A Drug Called Tradition," "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix,
Arizona," and "The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire," depict the Native American experience with their own cultural past through Thomas Builds-the-Fire. In "A Drug Called Tradition," Victor, Junior and Thomas volunteer themselves to the effects
magic mushrooms and go on a trip to Benjamin Lake. In "This Is What It Means to Say
Phoenix Arizonao" Victor is refused sufficient funds from the tribal council to collect and cremate his dead father. Thomas offers to give him money in exchange for partnership on his journey, and Victor and Thomas travel together to Arizona to retrieve Victor's father.
In "The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire," Thomas is put on trial for his crimes against story telling and must defend himself against his own people.
Alexie uses his character Thomas Builds-a-Fire in the three stories as a symbol for the cultural history and savior of Native Americans. Alexie also uses the rejection and persecution of Thomas Builds-a-Fire to convey how Native Americans are fighting against themselves and perpetuating an intentional loss of culture.
Throughout the stories in which Thomas is mentioned, he is consistently perceived as an outsider or one who is not commonly accepted by society. In numerous instances in Alexie's book, Thomas is described as one whom others are reluctant to hear speak, because he is constantly telling stories about the Native American past that nobody
wants to understand or accept. Thomas represents the Spokane traditions and cultural past that they are losing. People continually reject Thomas because he and his stories are
symbolic of the persistent Native American cultural past that struggles to stay alive
within its people.
In "A Drug Called Traditiono" Victor and his friend invite Thomas to join them on an outing but stop him from "tell[ing] another one of his goddamn stories," (14). Victor represents the Native Americans' ambivalence with their culture and uneasiness with
their own past, The reluctance to listen to Thomas's stories conveys how painfi.rl it is to see or hear about a culture that one is no longer connected
with. These Native Americans
do not want to be reminded about a culture from which they are trying to escape; therefore people intentionally disregard whatever Thomas ever has to say. This neglect stories that symbolize their history conveys the Native American's intentional loss
In her essay .'Tribal Visions," author Kelly Blewster describes Alexie's writing in The Lone Ranger and Tonto FistJight in Heaven as very
vivid in depicting the life of his
people. "He paints the joyful and the desperate moments of his characters' lives on the reservation. . .. [the] crueler affronts of life on an American Indian reservation. . . when they're doing stupid or self-destructive things."
Before their venture, Victor bargains with Thomas to not tell any stories until they are under the influence of drugs
which Alexie writes to convey how the Native
American past may be so difficult for Native Americans to accept, that they must be under the influence of drugs to do so. This relates to the alcohol dependency portrayed in
this book, and how numerous characters express how their only means to get through
their problems is to drink. Like many other characters, Victor and Junior cannot handle the pain and frustration of their cultural past, as symbolized through Thomas's stories; therefore they must intoxicate themselves to relieve themselves from the animosity
their past. Ambruster writes in his essay, "Teaching smoke signals: fatherhood, forgiveness, and 'freedom"' that Alexie freely incorporated alcohol in his stories for a reason. "Alcohol made his pain temporarily...
Cited: Heaven. Alexie, Sherman. New York: Grove Press, 2005. 12-23.
Armbruster-Sandoval, Ralph. "Teaching smoke signals: fatherhood, forgiveness, and
'freedom '." Wicazo Sa Review 23.I (2008):123+
Blewster, Kelley. "TRIBAL VISIONS." Biblio 4.3 (1999):22. General OneFile. Web. 8
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