Where It All Goes Down
Wellpinit and Reardan, WA
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian features two main settings, the Pacific Northwest towns of Wellpinit and Reardan. These contrasting locations – one an impoverished Indian reservation and the other an affluent white community – become very important to the ever-shifting identity of our narrator, Arnold Spirit, Jr.
First, there's Wellpinit, the home of the Spokane Indian Reservation where Arnold lives with his mother, father, sister, and grandmother. The Spirit family have lived on the reservation all of their lives, and Arnold is known there not by his first name, but simply as "Junior." As his name suggests, he's very much connected to – and identified by – his family and his tribe.
The reservation, though, is a pretty rough place. Fist fighting is a way of life (see: "The Unofficial and Unwritten Spokane Rules of Fisticuffs," 8.86) and, since Arnold is a stuttering outcast, he gets picked on and beaten up regularly. Whether kneed in the crotch by the 30-year-old Andruss triplets (3.96), or shoved around by his best friend Rowdy (3.77), Arnold is constantly bullied and belittled. He's a regular member of the "Black-Eye-of-the-Month Club" (1.42).
The reservation is a rough place in other ways, as well. Poverty is a given for most Indian families, and its effects, as Arnold tells us, can be pretty soul-crushing. "Poverty," he writes, "doesn't give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor" (2.54). Arnold's family often lacks the basic necessities, such as money for gas or food in the refrigerator. This leads many of his family members to try to escape reality by either hiding in the basement (such as his sister, Mary) or guzzling booze (such as his parents).
Speaking of which, alcoholism is rampant on the reservation. Both of Arnold's parents are alcoholics, as is, well, almost everyone. This situation,...
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