The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

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Victor, a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, is the protagonist of the majority of these stories, and is, in many ways, an emotional stand-in for Sherman Alexie himself. We follow the path of Victor’s life from his childhood through to his adulthood, and watch—sometimes from a close or first-person vantage point, and sometimes from afar—as he struggles with his relationship to himself, his relationship to his parents, and his relationship to his tribe. As a child, Victor seems to be withdrawn, pressured often into silence by the difficulties of his home life—his parents are alcoholics, and he has been raised in extreme and debilitating poverty on the Spokane Indian Reservation. As Victor matures, he navigates his relationships with his friends on the reservation, Junior Polatkin and Thomas Builds-the-Fire; he experiences the rise and fall of potential basketball stardom; he loses his father to a presumed suicide; he falls in and out of love with several women both on and off the reservation; he struggles with substance abuse, and ultimately conquers his addiction; and he ultimately ends up living alone in Spokane, confident, finally, that he “knows how his dreams end.” We see the world of the reservation largely through Victor’s eyes. His view of his own upbringing, adolescence, and adulthood, though tinged with raucous humor and a healthy dose of sarcasm, is a bleak one, and his tales of poverty, violence, loss, and disappointment illuminate a simultaneous resentment toward and longing for an ideal of reservation life.

Victor Quotes in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven quotes below are all either spoken by Victor or refer to Victor. 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:
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Grove Press edition of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven published in 2013.
Every Little Hurricane Quotes

Victor could see his uncles slugging each other with such force that they had to be in love. Strangers would never want to hurt each other that badly.

Related Characters: Victor, Arnold , Adolph
Related Symbols: Alcohol
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote, and the moment it describes—a drunken, messy fight between two of Victor’s uncles, Arnold and Adolph, which takes place in the middle of Victor’s parent’s New Years Eve Party, which itself takes place in the middle of a storm—introduces several of the major themes operating throughout the text. Love and hatred, bearing witness, and cultural versus personal pain are all thematic engagements here. Victor bears witness to his uncles’ fight—he knows that they love one another, and that their desire to hurt one another is folded into that love. The personal pain between them that leads them to such a climactic, destructive fight is also borne of a cultural, familial, or genetic pain, and that pain leads to feelings of isolation and antagonism despite the familial ties these two men share. This moment sets readers up for a journey throughout the course of these stories, one that spans years in the lives of Victor and his family and friends as well as a host of small and large-scale tragedies. Death, violence, loss, love, pain, discrimination, and the building and destruction of communities will all come into play throughout the collection, and Alexie pins the weight of all that is to come on this high-pressure moment.

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A Drug Called Tradition Quotes

Your past is a skeleton walking one step behind you, and your future is a skeleton walking one step in front of you... Indians never need to wear a watch because your skeletons will always remind you about the time. See, it is always now. That’s what Indian time is. The past, the future, all of it is wrapped up in the now. That’s how it is. We are trapped in the now.”

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker), Victor, Junior Polatkin
Related Symbols: Dreams and Visions
Page Number: 21-22
Explanation and Analysis:

Thomas Builds-the-Fire, after having gone on a modern-day “vision quest” to the nearby Benjamin Lake with Victor and Junior—despite not having been initially invited due to his burgeoning status as an eccentric and an outcast—shouts out to his two peers to warn them “not to slow dance with [their] skeletons.” The boys are unable to discern his meaning, but Thomas’s narrative voice then immediately takes over the story. Thomas explains, in his meandering but meaningful storyteller’s voice, that the past and the future are “skeletons.” The personification of the past and the future as bony, stripped-down, uncanny, and frightening figures gives them a leering, looming quality. Thomas explains how to handle the skeletons: “Keep moving, keep walking, in step with your skeletons,” he says. He then delves into an explanation of “Indian time,” and of the idea that Indians are “trapped in the now,” caught between their two skeleton companions. Native people, the victims of unfathomable violence on an unfathomable scale, bear the wounds of that violence in every aspect of their lives. Thomas acknowledges this, and argues that the tension between a battered past and a bleak future forces Indians to remain caught in a present that can never escape the dual pull of both what is behind and what lies ahead.

Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play… Quotes

During the sixties, my father was the perfect hippie, since all the hippies were trying to be Indians.

Related Characters: Victor (speaker), Victor’s Father
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Victor’s relationship with his father is a difficult, complicated one, and one that we see from several different angles at many points in time as the book unfolds. Our first introduction to him is this quote, which positions him as the unwitting emblem of a movement that has co-opted his culture, his appearance, and his values. Victor’s father, protesting the Vietnam War, was photographed holding a rifle above his head while a fellow protester held a sign reading “MAKE LOVE NOT WAR.” The photograph made the cover of Time Magazine, though after the immortalized moment Victor’s father was arrested in place of the white demonstrators and spent two years in prison. Through introducing his father through this anecdote, Victor describes the disadvantage that his father—and that all Native people—has had to face all his life. As we learn more about Victor’s father and the difficulties in his marriage to Victor’s mother, shortcomings as a parent, surrender to substance abuse, reckless behavior, and eventual abandonment of his family and his tribe, this context allows us to see Victor’s father as a whole, complex person. We are given a sense of the extreme appropriation and discrimination that Native people face, and made to understand how the ripple effects of such emotional violence create even more difficulty, pain, and isolation.

Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation… Quotes

It’s almost like Indians can easily survive the big stuff. Mass murder, loss of language and land and rights. It’s the small things that hurt the most. The white waitress who wouldn’t take an order, Tonto, the Washington Redskins. And, just like everybody else, Indians need heroes to help them learn how to survive. But what happens when our heroes don’t even know how to pay their bills?

Related Characters: Victor (speaker), Julius Windmaker, Adrian
Related Symbols: Alcohol, Crazy Horse, Basketball and Television
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

Victor and his friend Adrian, while sitting on Victor’s porch, notice that the only traffic light on the reservation has broken. A group of kids walk by the porch—one of them is Julius Windmaker, a rising basketball star. The kids are on their way to make some trouble, and Victor and Adrian discuss the basketball stars of the past, the “reservation heroes” who become “heroes forever,” even after their failures to make it big or make it out—often due to the fact that they succumb to alcoholism. Victor and Adrian wonder whether Julius will be able to make it “all the way,” and Victor then muses internally on the nature of heroism, idols, racism, and survival. Indians’ ability to “survive the big stuff” still yields a tremendous deal of loss, cultural pain, and isolation in the wake of that grappling for survival. “The small things”—the casual racism, the white world’s commodification and caricature of and disrespect for Native culture—grate hard each day, though, and create a need for positive “small things” to ensure survival. The heroes that Victor and his friends continually select often fall short of inspiring the hope that they should due to obscurity or their own personal inability to survive and thrive despite being a model for their peers. Victor’s open-ended question—“what happens when our heroes don’t even know how to pay their own bills?”—indicates both a longing for an answer and a fear of it; a need for a better way of thinking, living, and moving through the world, but an inability to conceive of what that might look like or how it might tamper with the careful alchemy needed to continue surviving “the small things.”

Ain’t no children on a reservation.

Related Characters: Adrian (speaker), Victor, Julius Windmaker
Related Symbols: Alcohol
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

Adrian’s assertion that there “ain’t no children on a reservation” speaks to the sealed-off, insular culture of reservation life, and the losses and advantages that comprise most of existence in the world of the reservation. Victor and Adrian are talking back and forth about Julius Windmaker, a bright and talented young basketball star on whom both Victor and Adrian—and their friends and families—have pinned hopes of not just success but glory. Julius’s ability to make it off the reservation, to make it through college, to make it as a basketball star—these are all things that Victor and Adrian envision with joy and hope. They strip Julius of his childhood by elevating him to a status that can never be reached; he becomes their idol, in a way, despite his youth. Adrian’s message, though, is that he feels Julius is “going to go bad.” When Victor tells Adrian that Julius is “just horsing around,” just being a kid, Adrian retorts with the above quotation. His awareness that childhood is a luxury and a comfort that most reservation children don’t get to experience opens up themes of loss, pain, and isolation that will be developed further throughout the larger text in various characters’ encounters with their memories of their own childhoods. We have a very strong thesis statement at this point about the nature of childhood on the reservation, and the fact that it may not, for all intents and purposes, even exist at all.

This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona Quotes

The fireworks were small, hardly more than a few bottle rockets and a fountain. But it was enough for two Indian boys. Years later, they would need much more.

Related Characters: Victor (speaker), Thomas Builds-the-Fire
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:

In the wake of his father’s death, Victor embarks on a journey to retrieve his remains. When Victor does not have enough money to make the journey to Phoenix alone, his childhood friend (and victim) and local eccentric Thomas Builds-the-Fire volunteers to help monetarily, as long as Victor brings him along on the trip. Throughout their journey, Victor reminisces intermittently about his and Thomas’s shared childhood—the happiness they shared, the cruelties Victor eventually inflicted upon Thomas, and the gulf that developed between them over the years. In one such reminiscence, Victor recalls a Fourth of July one summer when the two boys shared a bicycle and went nearly everywhere together. The boys watch a paltry fireworks display, but it is “enough” for them. The narrative then looks forward, though, at the end of the quote, stating that “years later, they would need much more.” This quotation speaks to a yearning that will develop in both boys as they become men; a yearning for an amorphous, changeable “more” that will drive their actions—Victor’s eventual move to Seattle and then to Spokane to escape the reservation, and Thomas’s extreme retreat into his inner life of stories, memories, and his visions of both the past and the future. The foresight of the narrative itself within a passage that describes a memory from the past engages meta-textually with intertwining themes of memory, bearing witness, storytelling, and imagination, and signals a nesting of sorts between all these modes of recollection, reminiscence, and internal lives.

“Wait,” Thomas yelled from his porch. “I just got to ask one favor.”
Victor stopped the pickup, leaned out the window, and shouted back. “What do you want?”
“Just one time when I’m telling a story somewhere, why don’t you stop and listen?” Thomas asked.
“Just once?”
“Just once.”
Victor waved his arms to let Thomas know that the deal was good. It was a fair trade, and that was all Victor had ever wanted from his whole life.

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker), Victor
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Thomas, an eccentric storyteller whose retreat into his own inner world has only deepened as time has gone on, has grown to be largely ignored by almost his entire tribe—Victor included. The two were once close as young boys, but the opposite directions of their lives—and Victor’s own personal anger, insecurities, and feelings of isolation—drove a wedge into their friendship. Thomas became more and more of an outcast, and Victor longed to get away from the reservation and his life there. Now, as adults, after a long, difficult, and revelatory journey to Arizona and back again, the two men find themselves thrown together both physically and emotionally. Victor, who borrowed money from Thomas for the journey (and will probably never pay him back) and who, moments before this exchange, discovered that his father had charged Thomas with “taking care” of him, is indebted to Thomas, and so Thomas’s request of Victor—to “just listen, just once” to one of his fabled stories—holds a weight that suggests a few different things. Either Thomas is so profoundly isolated that his entreaty to Victor to listen is a cry for help, or Thomas believes that, with one of his stories, he can save Victor—a character who, we will come to learn, “needs saving.” The very end of the quotation suggests that “all [either] has ever wanted” is a fair trade—to be on an even playing field, to give and to receive, to be visited by friendship, goodness, and fairness (and also a subtle allusion to the many unfair trades of Native people’s past). Thomas and Victor are finally able to give each other that, and while their friendship is not necessarily restored, their relationship to one another is cast in a new light.

All I Wanted To Do Was Dance Quotes

He counted his coins. Enough for a bottle of wine in the Trading Post. He walked down the hill and into the store, grabbed the bottle, paid for it with nickels and pennies, and walked into the parking lot. Victor pulled the wine from its paper bag, cracked the seal, and twisted the cap off. Jesus, he wanted to drink so much his blood could make the entire tribe numb.

Related Characters: Victor
Related Symbols: Alcohol
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

“All I Wanted To Do Was Dance” reveals to readers Victor’s life in the middle of a low point. He has left a failed relationship with a white woman off the reservation, and has now returned. Lonely, isolated, embarrassed, and in pain, Victor endures a struggle with alcoholism, insomnia, and desperation for escape. In the story’s climactic moment, Victor, after having succumbed to his desires and experienced a drunken night out, remembers his struggles to remain sober, his efforts to escape from the desire to make himself “numb.” However, his desire for escape seems to win out, and he goes to the Trading Post, preparing to drink enough to numb not just himself but “the entire tribe.” Throughout the collection, Alexie’s engagement with the stereotype of Indians as alcoholics rings loudly. Here, we see his protagonist—and, in many cases, the stand-in for Alexie himself—in a moment of profound desperation, wanting to escape or cloud his losses through alcohol, and wishing he could do the same for his entire tribe. The claustrophobic feeling this moment creates speaks to themes of cultural and personal pain, as well as community and isolation—a sort of communal isolation, so to speak, as explored in Victor’s wish to numb his tribe’s many wounds.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Quotes

These days, living alone in Spokane, I wish I lived closer to the river, to the falls where ghosts of salmon jump. I wish I could sleep. I put down my paper or book and turn off the lights, lie quietly in the dark. It may take hours, even years, for me to sleep again. There’s nothing surprising or disappointing in that. I know how all my dreams end anyway.

Related Characters: Victor (speaker), Victor’s Father
Related Symbols: Dreams and Visions
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

“The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” follows Victor, now living off the reservation in Spokane, as he, unable to sleep, journeys out into the night to the local 7-11 in search of a Creamsicle. Throughout his walk, Victor reminisces about a failed relationship he had with a white woman years ago, when he lived in Seattle. Trapped in his memories and suffering from insomnia, Victor recounts the decline of their emotionally—and almost physically—violent relationship. At the end of the night, Victor is still unable to sleep, but tells readers that his insomnia doesn’t matter to him—he knows how “all” his dreams will end. The failure of his relationship traps him in a cycle of fear of failure in general, and Victor is similarly haunted by his past. His desire to live near the Spokane falls “where ghosts of salmon jump” calls back to Thomas’s vision of Victor’s father’s spirit as a jumping salmon there, and even Victor’s former job at 7-11, where he was mugged, represents a familiarity, though it’s not a pleasant one. This is the last moment readers see Victor in the “present” in the collection, and they are left with a bleak portrait of where he’s landed. Knowing how his dreams end represents an inability, or a lack of desire, to journey anymore into the realms of imagination or storytelling. Victor is firmly entrenched in the past, unwilling or afraid to engage with his future, dreams, or inner world.

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Victor Character Timeline in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The timeline below shows where the character Victor appears in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Every Little Hurricane
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
...hurricane falls “from the sky [and onto] the Spokane Indian Reservation”; the storm wakes nine-year-old Victor from a nightmare. A third person narrator describes Victor’s experience; he is in the basement... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
From the basement, Victor hears an argument begin; two Indians, like “high-pressure and low-pressure fronts,” begin to fistfight one... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Victor can hear one of his parents’ guests yell “They’re going to kill each other,” but... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Victor remembers a metaphorical “storm” four years earlier when his father, unable to purchase Christmas gifts... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Victor reflects on how he hates the rain. He used to be afraid that “he was... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Victor’s uncles give up their fight completely and return to the party arm in arm. However,... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor gets out of bed and goes upstairs, hugs his uncles, and looks for his parents.... (full context)
A Drug Called Tradition
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
...to install ten power poles across land he’d inherited. He throws a party to celebrate. Victor, who narrates this story, and his friend Junior Polatkin are there, but they leave early... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
...the road; he has left his own party in order to follow the two boys. Victor invites Thomas to join them at the lake, but the invitation comes with a condition:... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Junior asks Victor to give him some of the drug. Though Junior is driving, Victor obliges. The boys... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Junior spins the car in circles through the empty fields near the lake, and Victor tells him to slow down. Both Junior and Thomas are consumed by their visions. Victor... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
...walk down to the lake. Thomas puts his feet in the water, and Junior and Victor sit on the hood of the car while the drugs wear off, drinking diet Pepsi... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
After he is finished with his story, Thomas gets up and walks away. Victor regrets being cruel to Thomas as children; he notes that Thomas has always been kind... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Victor and Junior stay at the lake until the sun comes up, experiencing residual visions. The... (full context)
Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Victor tells us that “during the sixties, [his] father was the perfect hippie, since all the... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Throughout Victor’s childhood, Victor says, Jimi Hendrix and his father “became drinking buddies.” Victor would put on... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
In the wake of such nights, Victor’s father would tell him stories “as a means of apology,” including how he met Victor’s... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Victor remembers how, one night in his adolescence, when driving home with his father, someone called... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Victor describes his vivid dreams of his father at Woodstock, but admits that “as much as... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor describes his parents’ arguments; a particularly difficult one occurred on a trip to visit Jimi... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor recalls a dream he had, soon after his father left, of his father returning to... (full context)
Crazy Horse Dreams
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
At a fry bread stand at a powwow, Victor tries to get his order taken. A woman follows him “from open space to open... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
The woman takes Victor back to her Winnebago, where they banter with one another and have sex. “She was... (full context)
The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn’t Flash Red Anymore
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
On a hot summer day, Victor and his friend Adrian, seated on Victor’s front porch, play around with a BB gun... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
A group of Indian boys walk by, looking to Victor like they are “off to cause trouble somewhere.” Adrian recognizes one of the boys as... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Victor still feels the “ache” of his own “lost edge” as a basketball star. He asks... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
One year later, Adrian and Victor sit “on the same porch in the same chairs.”They see Julius Windmaker “staggering” down the... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Later that night, Adrian and Victor go to watch Julius play in his basketball game, but he is not “the ball... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Out on the porch, Victor and Adrian watch another group of Indian children walk by, “all holding basketballs.” They recognize... (full context)
Amusements
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
...the half-empties,” passes out on the ground, intoxicated, “in the middle of a white carnival.” Victor and his friend Sadie stand over Joe’s body, unsure of what to do with him.... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Victor and Sadie carry Joe to the coaster and pay off the “carny” operator to let... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Victor, “realizing what [he] ha[s] done,” tells Sadie that they should leave. She suggests they collect... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Victor runs, pursued by a security guard, and finds himself in a fun house. There he... (full context)
This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona
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Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor loses his job working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and shortly thereafter learns that... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Victor has no money at his disposal. He knows that his father has some money in... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
At the Trading Post Victor sees Thomas Builds-the-Fire, who is talking to himself “like always.” Victor recalls a time, when... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Thomas approaches Victor and apologizes for his loss. He tells Victor that Victor’s mother was just in the... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Victor remembers one summer when he and Thomas shared a bike. On their way to watch... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
In the present, at his kitchen table, Victor counts his hundred dollars again and again. He knows he needs more. He places the... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor remembers a time “when [he and Thomas] were fifteen; they had long since stopped being... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
In the present, Victor and Thomas sit side-by-side in coach on their flight to Phoenix. A gymnast who’d been... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
After arriving at the airport in Phoenix, Victor and Thomas take a taxi to Victor’s father’s trailer. When they get there, Victor apologizes... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Victor remembers a time when he was twelve, and stepped into an underground wasps’ nest. Thomas... (full context)
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Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
There is not much in Victor’s father’s trailer worth keeping, since everything stinks, Victor says, of death. Thomas tells a story... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor is quiet, and then confesses to Thomas that his father never told him that story.... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
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Victor remembers a time when, as a child, Thomas jumped from the roof of the tribal... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Victor’s father’s ashes don’t quite fit in one box, so Victor divides them into two. Victor... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor and Thomas arrive back home at the reservation “just as the sun ris[es].” Victor stops... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Thomas accepts, and tells Victor that he will go back to the Spokane Falls and scatter the ashes there. He... (full context)
All I Wanted To Do Was Dance
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Victor drunkenly dances with a Lakota woman at a bar in Montana. He is dancing with... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
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Victor experiences a memory or vision of his former girlfriend; she stands by a river, and... (full context)
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Victor becomes lost in memory, and experiences another recollection of his ex; in his memory, they... (full context)
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Victor, having returned to the present moment, sips his morning coffee, and tells himself that he’ll... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor remembers being eight or nine years old and “fancydancing in the same outfit his father... (full context)
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Love and Hatred Theme Icon
In another memory of his past, Victor recalls being drunk on a night out with his white ex-girlfriend. She urges him to... (full context)
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In the present, Victor works odd jobs in order to make ends meet. On paydays, he stands in front... (full context)
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After another sleepless night, Victor counts his spare change, and takes it to buy a bottle of wine from the... (full context)
A Good Story
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The narrator, Junior—perhaps Junior Polatkin, but, as Victor once pointed out, “everybody” on the reservation is called Junior—pretends to sleep on the sofa... (full context)
The First Annual All-Indian Horseshoe Pitch and Barbecue
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...events of The First Annual All-Indian Horseshoe pitch and barbecue. Somebody has forgotten the charcoal; Victor brings a secondhand piano and plays Bartok; the narrator and his “love” hold each other... (full context)
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
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In the middle of the night, unable to sleep, Victor, again the narrator, walks through the streets of Spokane. He heads for the 7-11 to... (full context)
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Victor reminisces about his ex, a white woman he used to live with in Seattle. They... (full context)
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Victor takes a Creamsicle from the refrigerator. He can tell that the clerk is nervous to... (full context)
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Victor flashes back to Seattle, where, during intense fights with his ex, he “broke lamps.” His... (full context)
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Victor finishes his Creamsicle and arrives home. He is still unable to sleep, so he picks... (full context)
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When Victor arrived home on the reservation after leaving his girlfriend, his family was unsurprised by his... (full context)
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In the present, Victor wishes he lives “closer to the river, to the falls where ghosts of salmon jump.”... (full context)
Somebody Kept Saying Powwow
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...alone and [sings] herself to sleep.” Junior always thought that Norma would settle down with Victor, “since she was so good at saving people and Victor needed more saving than most... (full context)