The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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Junior’s “translucent semi-girlfriend,” a beautiful and popular freshman at Reardan High School. Roger, a big-brother figure to her, calls her Penultimate. Penelope is the first Reardan student to speak to Junior, but generally ignores him until he discovers she is bulimic (a disorder that reminds him of his father’s alcoholism) and she ends up crying on his shoulder, beginning their “friends with potential” relationship. Like Junior, Penelope has big dreams and wants to leave the place where she came from, although some of her dreams are so grandiose that Junior finds them a little silly. With blond hair, pale skin, and an all-white volleyball uniform, Penelope embodies both the hope and the unattainability that Junior associates with the color white.

Penelope 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 Penelope or refer to Penelope. 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 8 Quotes

“My name is Junior,” I said. “And my name is Arnold. I’m Junior and Arnold. I’m both.”
I felt like two different people inside of one body.
No, I felt like a magician slicing myself in half, with Junior living on the north side of the Spokane River and Arnold living on the south.

Related Characters: Junior (Arnold Spirit, Jr.) (speaker), Penelope
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

When Junior gets to the high school Reardan, filled mostly with white students, he begins to experience a phenomenon that feels like splitting himself in half. He feels like he has to be a different person around white people than he is around Indians, and he feels like his true self doesn't fit quite right in either world. The difficulty with his name is emblematic of this feeling. The Indians in his community have always called him Junior, but his official name is Arnold, and the white students want to call him Arnold. Junior has to explain that both names are his – both are equally true – but it doesn't seem that anyone else can see everything about him that these two names encompass.

This shows the ways in which stereotypes and social norms constrict Junior's ability to be himself, and it also shows the tangible differences between his background and the backgrounds of the white students. While the white students are suspicious of his two names, Junior is delighted that white students can have names like "Penelope," which is a name that he would never find on the rez.

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Chapter 11 Quotes

“Hey buddy,” I would have said. “How do I make a beautiful white girl fall in love with me?”
“Well, buddy,” he would have said. “The first thing you have to do is change the way you look, the way you talk, and the way you walk. And then she’ll think you’re her fricking Prince Charming.”

Related Characters: Junior (Arnold Spirit, Jr.) (speaker), Rowdy (speaker), Penelope
Related Symbols: White
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

Junior realizes he has a crush on Penelope and, while he doesn't know how Penelope feels about him, she is being nice to him which gives him hope that they could end up together. He thinks about emailing Rowdy to ask advice since Rowdy is his best friend (even though they are fighting), but he thinks better of it, perhaps because Rowdy's tough love approach has begun to seem pessimistic rather than realistic.

Junior imagines Rowdy telling him that the only way for a white girl to fall in love with him would be if he were white, too, and essentially a different person. While that would seem to be the racist reality that he and Rowdy grew up with, being at Reardan has changed what seems possible for Junior (which is, in part, why he transferred there in the first place). This is both a moment of hope, in which Junior is beginning to see possibilities that were unthinkable before, but also a moment of sadness in which Junior is still reckoning with a racist reality that could keep him from the things he most wants. And both of those things – hope and reality – continue to be embodied in Junior's suddenly difficult friendship with Rowdy.

Chapter 15 Quotes

There are all kinds of addicts, I guess. We all have pain. And we all look for ways to make the pain go away.

Related Characters: Junior (Arnold Spirit, Jr.) (speaker), Dad, Penelope
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

A big part of Junior's growth when he goes to Reardan is his growing understanding of and empathy for the white students he's in class with. Before going to Reardan, Junior had associated whiteness with perfection, possibility, and beauty, but he is beginning to see that the white students experience pain and difficulty that aren't totally dissimilar from his own. In this passage, he has just heard Penelope throwing up in the bathroom and when he confronts her about her eating disorder she says something reminiscent of the way Junior's dad talks about his alcoholism.

This is a moment of revelation for Junior in that he realizes that Penelope has pain that she is dealing with in a way that is parallel to his own father's coping mechanisms for pain, and it opens up a way for him to empathize with her. Certainly, Junior's peers at Reardan have more opportunities than the kids on the rez, but it's important for Junior to understand that this doesn't mean their lives are completely different. 

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Penelope Character Timeline in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The timeline below shows where the character Penelope 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 8 - How to Fight Monsters
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
...front office. He arrives late to his homeroom class, where a beautiful blond girl named Penelope asks his name and laughs at him when he tells her it’s Junior, even though... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
When the teacher calls Junior by his full name, Arnold Spirit, Penelope asks accusingly why he told her his name was Junior, the Indian nickname that Junior... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Penelope also says Junior has a funny accent, which makes him afraid to talk for his... (full context)
Chapter 9 - Grandmother Gives Me Some Advice
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Junior’s relief and happiness at having earned Roger’s respect gives him the courage to greet Penelope when he sees her a moment later. However, she snubs him and then calls him... (full context)
Chapter 11 – Halloween
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
On Halloween, Junior and Penelope both arrive at school dressed as homeless people—an easy costume for Junior, he notes, since... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
At school, Junior tells a shocked and concerned Penelope what happened. She sympathizes (even touching his bruises, to Junior’s amazement) and promises to put... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Still, Junior and Penelope don’t say much to each other. Junior wishes he could ask Rowdy for advice about... (full context)
Chapter 15 - Hunger Pains
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The vomiter turns out to be Penelope, who comes out of the bathroom clearly trying to hide what she’s done by chewing... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Junior reflects that Penelope’s purging and his dad’s drinking are both forms of addiction—that everyone has pain, and that... (full context)
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
Junior finds all of this sexy, including Penelope’s ego and her cinnamon-vomit breath. He understands for the first time why love and lust... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Over the next few weeks, Junior and Penelope become “the hot item at Reardan High School—not exactly a romantic couple [but] more like... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Besides this, talking with Penelope makes Junior realize that they have more important things in common. At first, Junior makes... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
However, Junior admires Penelope’s more specific dream of going to Stanford to study architecture: her desire “to build something... (full context)
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
While Junior points out to Penelope that she won’t get to travel very far if she doesn’t eat enough, he doesn’t... (full context)
Chapter 16 - Rowdy Gives Me Advice About Love
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
One day while watching Penelope at a volleyball game, Junior marvels at how beautiful she is with her pale skin... (full context)
Chapter 17 - Dance, Dance, Dance
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
In December, Junior takes Penelope to the Winter Formal, which is complicated for him because he’s been trying to keep... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
...when Roger invites them along with his friends to drive into Spokane for pancakes, which Penelope is eager to do. Junior doesn’t have money to pay for pancakes, but he can’t... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...he’s lost his wallet. Without hesitation, Roger gives Junior forty dollars to cover his and Penelope’s food. (full context)
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...and so Roger drops him off there and waits in the car while Junior and Penelope get out to say goodbye. Saying that Roger told her he lent Junior some money,... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Under Penelope’s persistent questions, Junior also admits that his dad isn’t picking him up. Refusing to let... (full context)
Chapter 22 - Red Versus White
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Junior thinks the best thing about Reardan is Penelope—as well as Gordy, maybe—and the best thing about Wellpinit was his grandmother. He thinks his... (full context)
Chapter 24 - Valentine Heart
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Junior begins his next chapter with the following sentence: “A few days after I gave Penelope a homemade Valentine (and she said she forgot it was Valentine’s Day), my dad’s best... (full context)
Chapter 27 - Because Russian Guys Are Not Always Geniuses
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Instead, Junior goes to school, where his white friends, including Penelope, offer their concern and sympathy. He is surprised, and touched, to find that he matters... (full context)
Chapter 29 - Talking About Turtles
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Junior spends the first part of summer reading comics and missing his white friends—Penelope, whom he’s written three love letters although she hasn’t written one in return yet; Gordy,... (full context)