The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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Mary Runs Away Character Analysis

Junior’s older sister, nicknamed “Mary Runs Away” because of her unpredictability. At the beginning of the novel, she has been living alone in her parents’ basement ever since she “froze” after graduating high school; Junior calls her “the prettiest and strongest and funniest person who ever spent twenty-three hours a day alone in a basement.” He learns from Mr. P that she is extremely smart and once dreamed of writing romance novels—a dream she takes up again after Junior’s leaving the reservation inspires her to leave as well, suddenly marrying a Flathead Indian man and moving to Montana. She is very happy there until she dies in an accidental fire started while she was drunk.

Mary Runs Away Quotes in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian quotes below are all either spoken by Mary Runs Away or refer to Mary Runs Away . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Little, Brown and Company edition of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian published in 2009.
Chapter 4 Quotes

After high school, my sister just froze. Didn’t go to college, didn’t get a job. Didn’t do anything. Kind of sad, I guess.
But she is also beautiful and strong and funny. She is the prettiest and strongest and funniest person who ever spent twenty-three hours a day alone in a basement.

Related Characters: Junior (Arnold Spirit, Jr.) (speaker), Mary Runs Away
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

For Junior, Mary is a sort of cautionary tale for the future. Junior looks up to Mary and believes that she is smart and capable enough to do something important with her life. However, Mary "froze" after high school and moved into their parents' basement, refusing to pursue her dreams. This underscores Junior's sense that the Indians living in poverty have few ways to make a better life. He sees his sister as having the personal qualities (smart, pretty, strong, funny) that might allow her to escape the reservation, but she doesn't.

Since he can't chalk this "failure" up to Mary's personal failings, Junior finds it emblematic of a social reality in which Indians don't have the kinds of opportunities that white kids take for granted. And this feeling of Junior's is substantiated by the realities he sees around him: other kids on the rez, including Mary, get substandard educations and don't go to college; don't get jobs and, in fact, often can't find good jobs because there aren't many ways to make an income on the rez.

There's a sense throughout the book that Junior feels that the world is sending him the message that he doesn't have a future to look forward to as he grows up, and Junior is rebelling by having hope and making radically different choices than his community to see if they result in a different outcome. 

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Chapter 29 Quotes

I would always love Rowdy. And I would always miss him, too. Just as I would always love and miss my grandmother, my big sister, and Eugene.
Just as I would always love and miss my reservation and my tribe.
I hoped and prayed that they would someday forgive me for leaving them.
I hoped and prayed that I would someday forgive myself for leaving them.

Related Characters: Junior (Arnold Spirit, Jr.) (speaker), Rowdy, Mary Runs Away , Grandmother Spirit , Eugene
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:

This book refuses to give readers easy answers to complex problems, and its conclusion is no exception. Junior has grown and matured and he has made brave and difficult decisions that have put him on a path to achieving his dreams. However, Alexie does not pretend that this comes without cost or that Junior's problems are all solved.

Even though Junior has come to deep realizations about the complexity of his identity and his ability to connect to others, he is still not immune from feeling guilty about the choices he has made to separate himself from his community, and Alexie's placement of this statement at the end of the book indicates that Junior likely never will. Junior's ability, though, to sit with his ambivalence and declare that both things are true at once is a tremendous evolution from the Junior at the beginning of the book who could only see the world divided into separate categories.

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Mary Runs Away Character Timeline in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The timeline below shows where the character Mary Runs Away appears in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4 - Because Geometry Is Not a Country Somewhere Near France
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
...corners, and spent a few years sleeping in his bedroom closet until his older sister Mary ruined it by telling him he was just trying to find his way back into... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
Junior says Mary is “good at ruining things.” Although Mary is beautiful, strong, and funny, she shut down... (full context)
Chapter 5 - Hope Against Hope
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
Mr. P reveals to Junior that Mary used to want to be a writer; before she gave up on her dream, she... (full context)
Chapter 12 - Slouching Toward Thanksgiving
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
When he gets home on this day, Junior learns that his sister Mary has married a Flathead Indian and moved to Montana without saying goodbye to anyone. His... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Feeling shamed and inspired in turn by Mary’s dramatic act, Junior decides to face up to a confrontation and asks Gordy to be... (full context)
Chapter 13 - My Sister Sends Me an E-Mail
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
Junior receives an enthusiastic email from his sister in which Mary tells Junior about her new home in Montana. The Flathead reservation has more towns and... (full context)
Chapter 15 - Hunger Pains
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
...lust could make his sister move to Montana for a guy she just met. With Mary’s romance novels in mind, he draws a book whose cover illustration shows him kissing the... (full context)
Chapter 19 - My Sister Sends Me a Letter
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
In another happy letter, Mary tells Junior that although she hasn’t been able to find a job yet, she has... (full context)
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
Mary encloses a photo of her “gorgeous new place,” an aluminum trailer that Junior, who reproduces... (full context)
Chapter 22 - Red Versus White
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
...in Indians, Junior compares his family to the families of his white classmates. He loves Mary and his mom and dad and grandmother. In spite of their flaws, he believes his... (full context)
Chapter 27 - Because Russian Guys Are Not Always Geniuses
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
...hug, which gives him an embarrassing erection just before she tells him that his sister Mary has died. (full context)
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Junior’s dad explains that Mary and her husband had a big party in their trailer and passed out drunk in... (full context)
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Dad tries to comfort Junior by telling him that Mary was too drunk to feel any pain, but Junior finds this thought so far from... (full context)
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Mary’s funeral is held two days later. Junior feels like he is living in a fog—or,... (full context)
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...he is laughing at him. He does stop, though, when Rowdy accuses him of killing Mary: she is dead because Junior left. As Junior realizes that he might be right—Mary wouldn’t... (full context)
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...to stop thinking that he killed his sister and where his extended family will commemorate Mary’s life by getting “drunk and unhappy.” He would like to be there for a sober... (full context)
Chapter 28 - My Final Freshman Year Report Card
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...cemetery with his mom and dad to clean the graves of Grandmother Spirit, Eugene, and Mary. They make it a day of celebration, with a picnic and Dad’s saxophone. Junior’s parents... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Thinking of how Mary died while attempting to find her dreams—and how he is making the same attempt, even... (full context)
Chapter 29 - Talking About Turtles
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
...he will always love and miss Rowdy, just as he will always miss his grandmother, Mary, Eugene, his reservation, and his tribe. He hopes and prays that they will one day... (full context)