The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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Rowdy Character Analysis

Junior’s best friend from the reservation. Rowdy is the toughest kid on the rez and all the other kids are afraid of him, but he always protects Junior from bullies (or beats them up in return as revenge). In turn, Junior supports Rowdy as he deals with his abusive, alcoholic father. They were born within two hours of each other and are each other’s only friends. Rowdy loves kids’ comic books like Archie and Caspar the Friendly Ghost; secretly, he’s “a big, goofy dreamer,” and Junior loves to make him laugh. But when Junior leaves the reservation to attend high school in Reardan, Rowdy not only refuses to go with him, but also punches Junior, screaming that he hates him. Junior misses Rowdy desperately throughout the novel, but it isn’t until the final chapter that their friendship is restored. Rowdy is introduced as a kind of character foil to Junior—he’s the strongest kid on the reservation while Junior is the weakest, and he has trouble expressing any feelings other than anger, while Junior cries frequently and expresses himself easily in cartoons. In fact, though, the two boys’ differences are what make them similar: they are both ostracized for their respective violence and weakness, and Rowdy, with his hot temper, is as fragile emotionally as Junior is physically. In this way, their relationship plays into the theme of overlapping opposites, and parallels Junior’s sense of being a person split in two.

Rowdy 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 Rowdy or refer to Rowdy. 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 3 Quotes

“It’s not like anybody’s going to notice if you go away,” he said. “So you might as well gut it out.”

Related Characters: Rowdy (speaker), Junior (Arnold Spirit, Jr.)
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a moment that encapsulates the dynamic of Rowdy and Junior's friendship. Junior is remembering when his beloved dog died and his grief led him to want to go away from everyone. Rowdy didn't comfort Junior or tell him it would be okay; he gave him a tough-love response that acknowledged that Junior leaving wouldn't accomplish anything and nobody would notice so it made sense for him to just stay where he was.

Rowdy's advice is helpful in that it keeps Junior from doing anything rash and regrettable, and it also shows that the two know each other very well and care for each other. This also points to the fact that Rowdy seems to have internalized the tough environment of the rez more than Junior. Rowdy can be mean and he's opposed to any dreams about the future because they seem, to him, unrealistic (and, therefore, indulging in such dreams would make you vulnerable to them inevitably not coming true). Junior, on the other hand, is a more openly compassionate friend, and he's prone to more eccentric dreams and impulses, like escaping the rez. 

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Chapter 7 Quotes

“You always thought you were better than me,” he yelled.
“No, no, I don’t think I’m better than anybody. I think I’m worse than everybody else.”
“Why are you leaving?”
“I have to go. I’m going to die if I don’t leave.”

Related Characters: Junior (Arnold Spirit, Jr.) (speaker), Rowdy (speaker)
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Rowdy's friendship with Junior is one of the primary plot arcs of the book, and this is the moment in which it begins to fray. When Junior tells Rowdy he is changing schools, Rowdy takes it personally, suggesting that Junior's choice is an implicit judgment of everyone else and a rejection of Rowdy. Junior tries to explain that this is a choice not made out of superiority or arrogance, but one made because he feels desperate – he doesn't think he can make it, doesn't think he'll survive, if he stays on the rez.

Junior's assertion that he will die if he doesn't leave is a dramatic one, but the book proves its truth. So many people in Junior's life die over the course of the book, and most of them are senseless deaths due to conditions on the reservation. This drives home just how dire the poverty that Junior lives in is; it could literally kill him if he doesn't go to another school, so he has to make a choice that alienates his best and only friend in order to take a chance that he might find a better life elsewhere.

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 29 Quotes

“You’re an old-time nomad,” Rowdy said. “You’re going to keep moving all over the world in search of food and water and grazing land. That’s pretty cool.”

Related Characters: Rowdy (speaker), Junior (Arnold Spirit, Jr.)
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:

In this moment, Junior and Rowdy have finally made up. Rowdy has come to terms with Junior's decision to leave the rez, and Junior has accepted that Rowdy is not choosing the same path. Over a game of basketball, the two of them settle into a new dynamic in their friendship in which they can enjoy each other's company without being possessive or co-dependent. Their personalities can evolve independently, in other words, which shows that they've both grown up tremendously.

In this passage, Rowdy is offering Junior a kind observation, that Junior's choices remind him of nomadic Indians of pre-reservation times. Throughout the book, Junior has had a hard time reconciling his choices with his community. His need to leave the rez has made him feel not Indian enough, but Rowdy has now given him a way to think about his choices that connects him deeply to Indian history. This is the ultimate form of acceptance that Rowdy could give Junior.

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

The timeline below shows where the character Rowdy 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 3 - Revenge Is My Middle Name
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
After Oscar’s death, Junior wants to disappear, but his best friend Rowdy talks him out of it, claiming, “It’s not like anybody’s going to notice if you... (full context)
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Rowdy often comes to Junior’s house to avoid his abusive father, who is “drinking hard and... (full context)
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
On the way back from the powwow, Rowdy trips and stumbles in a funny way and Junior laughs at him. Rowdy gets furious,... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
“That was a mistake,” Junior says about laughing at Rowdy. Although Junior knows Rowdy would never hurt him, the violent display scares him—as does the... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...fun of his brain disorder, knock him down, and knee him in the crotch. After Rowdy finds the beaten-up Junior, the two boys hide out near where the Andruss brothers are... (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
Though this episode illustrates Rowdy’s toughness, Junior knows Rowdy also has a softer side: Rowdy loves old comics, and Junior’s... (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
Junior and Rowdy don’t talk about their dreams with anyone else but each other. Junior calculates that they’ve... (full context)
Chapter 4 - Because Geometry Is Not a Country Somewhere Near France
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
In particular, Junior is excited about school, particularly playing basketball with Rowdy on the high school team. They were the best players on their eighth-grade team last... (full context)
Chapter 7 - Rowdy Sings the Blues
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
The next day, Junior finds Rowdy on the playground and tells him that he is transferring to Reardan. Rowdy does not... (full context)
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Junior understands that Rowdy hates Reardan because Reardan beat Wellpinit at every team sport in the previous year (including... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
As Rowdy begins to understand that Junior is serious, he turns away, and Junior touches his shoulder.... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Both boys begin to cry, which makes Rowdy even more upset. Rowdy screams in rage and pain, and it is the worst thing... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Rowdy punches Junior hard in the face, knocking him to the ground. As Rowdy walks away,... (full context)
Chapter 10 - Tears of a Clown
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
One night during a sleepover with Rowdy, Junior confessed his feelings for Dawn. After being silent for a moment, Rowdy declared that... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...happy or sad or angry: “It’s weak. It’s the opposite of warrior.” In this instance, Rowdy told Junior to stop crying repeatedly and then called him a wimp. However, Rowdy also... (full context)
Chapter 11 – Halloween
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
...naïve, and he knows he would not have been jumped if he had been with Rowdy. He wonders whether one of the guys could have been Rowdy, but refuses to believe... (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 how to win over a beautiful white girl. At the same time,... (full context)
Chapter 14 – Thanksgiving
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
Junior enjoys Thanksgiving with his mom, dad, and grandmother, but misses Rowdy because he always used to come over for a pumpkin-pie eating contest with Junior. Junior... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
Rowdy’s dad answers the door and says Rowdy isn’t home. He looks at Junior’s cartoon and... (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
As he walks away from the house, Junior sees Rowdy holding the cartoon and watching him sadly from an upstairs window. When Junior waves, Rowdy... (full context)
Chapter 16 - Rowdy Gives Me Advice About Love
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Junior emails Rowdy to ask what he should do about being in love with a white girl, but... (full context)
Chapter 18 - Don't Trust Your Computer
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Missing Rowdy, Junior emails him a photo of his smiling face, and gets a picture of Rowdy’s... (full context)
Chapter 20 - Reindeer Games
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...the gym falls completely silent. The entire tribe turns its back on Junior—all except for Rowdy, who simply looks like he wants to kill him. Both angered and impressed by the... (full context)
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
As soon as Junior rejoins the game, however, Rowdy goes after him. He elbows Junior in the head as he jumps to shoot, giving... (full context)
Chapter 23 – Wake
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...him for being a traitor, an act of kindness for which Junior is grateful. Even Rowdy just stands far away, and Junior says “he would always be my best friend, no... (full context)
Chapter 25 - In Like a Lion
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Rowdy has led his own team to an undefeated record, and as the rematch between Wellpinit... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...finds it difficult to say he feels anything other than “weird” until he admits that Rowdy used to be his best friend and that he, Junior, wants to use this game... (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
Coach assigns Junior—the team’s “secret weapon”—to guard Rowdy throughout the game. Junior isn’t sure he can do it, but Coach tells him he... (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
When the two teams take the court, the Reardan crowd boos Wellpinit. Rowdy and Junior send each other “serious hate signals” across the gym, Junior noting that “you... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
When Rowdy goes to dunk the ball and humiliate Reardan on the opening play, Junior jumps just... (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
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Ultimately, Reardan beats Wellpinit by forty points, with Junior holding Rowdy to only four. But Junior’s joy at the victory immediately turns to shame when he... (full context)
Chapter 26 - Rowdy and I Have a Long and Serious Discussion About Basketball
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
After basketball season ends, Junior emails Rowdy an apology for what happened at the game, and Rowdy sends back a promise that... (full context)
Chapter 27 - Because Russian Guys Are Not Always Geniuses
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
He runs straight into Rowdy, who has been hiding there to watch the burial, sending both of them sprawling. As... (full context)
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Junior can’t stop laughing even though he wants to, and realizes that Rowdy thinks he is laughing at him. He does stop, though, when Rowdy accuses him of... (full context)
Chapter 28 - My Final Freshman Year Report Card
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
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
However, it also makes Junior think of people who are not going to be okay—including Rowdy, whom he desperately misses and wants to beg for forgiveness for leaving. He includes a... (full context)
Chapter 29 - Talking About Turtles
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
...the many tall, beautiful pine trees that are hundreds of years old. When he and Rowdy were ten, they climbed one of the tallest—the 150-foot “monster” by Turtle Lake. On that... (full context)
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
That July, when Junior is ten, it is “crazy hot and dry,” and he and Rowdy spend a lot of time hanging out in the basement. They talk about what they... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Since Junior doesn’t want to tell Rowdy he’s scared, they walk the five miles from Junior’s house to Turtle Lake. When Junior... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...Junior’s words, “our entire world, at that moment, was green and golden and perfect.” Even Rowdy says it’s pretty—the only time Junior’s heard him talk like that. Junior thinks they could... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Looking back, Junior can hardly believe that he and Rowdy climbed that tree. He then says that he also can hardly believe that he survived... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
One day, Junior hears a knock on his front door, and Rowdy walks in, saying that he still hates Junior, but he’s bored and wants to play... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
After they shoot hoops for a while without talking, Rowdy suggests they play one-on-one. Rowdy adds that Junior has never beaten him in one-on-one, but... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Rowdy passes Junior the ball, and before he begins to play, Junior asks Rowdy once again... (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
Rowdy says he had a dream about Junior a few months before. Junior was standing on... (full context)
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
Hearing Rowdy say that he is happy for him makes Junior begin to cry. He feels he... (full context)
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
When Rowdy tells Junior to stop crying, Junior asks if they will still know each other when... (full context)