The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

White Symbol Analysis

White Symbol Icon
“I don’t know if hope is white,” Junior states, thinking about the hopefulness of the white students in Reardan. “But I do know that hope for me is like some mythical creature: white, white, white, white, white, white, white, white.” He illustrates this with a cartoon of a winged horse, flying past fluffy, smiling clouds. For Junior, whiteness, both in the sense of skin color and more broadly, symbolizes hopes and dreams: things that are both desirable and seemingly unattainable, or even, perhaps, unreal. He wants the advantages and opportunities that the white students seem to have by birthright, but (at the beginning of the novel) doubts his ability to achieve or deserve them. He also feels guilty for having that desire, since it seems to require him to betray his tribe and falsely act as something he is not. Similarly, Junior’s blond-haired, blue-eyed semi-girlfriend Penelope is described as “all white on white on white, like the most perfect kind of vanilla dessert cake you’ve ever seen.” She’s the most popular girl in the Reardan freshman class, and Junior thinks everything about her is sexy, but she’s also an unattainable girl who doesn’t return his Valentine—and as Rowdy’s and Gordy’s comments on Junior’s obsession with her suggest, his love for this white girl may not be entirely pure, since it objectifies and partly reduces her to what she represents. Meanwhile, Penelope’s own wild dreams of travel are, in Junior’s eyes, “just big goofy dreams. They’re not real.” The color white thus symbolizes the complicated nature of dreams in this novel: inspiring and aspirational, but also, like Mary’s life of romance, sometimes false, and not always to be trusted.

White Quotes in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian quotes below all refer to the symbol of White. 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 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:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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White Symbol Timeline in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The timeline below shows where the symbol White 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 7 - Rowdy Sings the Blues
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...outstanding athletic accomplishments. This makes Junior scared of Reardan, too. But Junior also sees the white students as being full of hope, whereas Rowdy just hates them. With a drawing of... (full context)
Chapter 8 - How to Fight Monsters
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...begins school at Reardan the next day. His dad tells him to remember that the white kids aren’t any better than him—which, according to Junior, both of them know isn’t true—and... (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
...rez, his family, and himself, and illustrates the difference with a cartoon diagram of a half-white, half-Indian boy—split down the middle with opposing labels such as “Ergonomic backpack/Glad garbage book bag,”... (full context)
Chapter 11 – Halloween
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...Junior wishes he could ask Rowdy for advice about how to win over a beautiful white girl. At the same time, he imagines what Rowdy would say—that he would need to... (full context)
Chapter 12 - Slouching Toward Thanksgiving
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...Indian” once he arrives—a characteristically extreme statement that shows how deeply being ignored by the white kids affects him. (full context)
Chapter 16 - Rowdy Gives Me Advice About Love
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...volleyball game, Junior marvels at how beautiful she is with her pale skin and her white uniform: “all white on white on white, like the most perfect kind of vanilla dessert... (full context)
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 Rowdy tells him to get a life: “I’m sick of Indian guys who... (full context)
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Junior asks Gordy for advice, and Gordy Googles “in love with a white girl,” finding an article about how the media will focus on the plight of one... (full context)
Chapter 20 - Reindeer Games
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
...the first day of practice, he feels short, skinny, and slow, and like all the white boys are better than him. When Coach announces that he can only take twenty-four players... (full context)
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...ambulance, the Reardan players get into a shoving match with the Wellpinit players—and fans—and the white referees, afraid of the Indians, begin calling fouls in Wellpinit’s favor. Wellpinit ends up winning... (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
To make clear that he hasn’t fallen in love with white people and still sees good in Indians, Junior compares his family to the families of... (full context)
Chapter 24 - Valentine Heart
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Overlapping Opposites Theme Icon
...and drops his textbook, leading the rest of the class to do the same. The white students then walk out—leaving Junior alone with Mrs. Jeremy. Junior laughs at the absurdity of... (full context)
Chapter 25 - In Like a Lion
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
...the game. The crowd is amazed—Junior’s mom faints, and his dad hugs and kisses the white guy next to him even though they don’t know each other. (full context)
Chapter 27 - Because Russian Guys Are Not Always Geniuses
Identity, Belonging, and Coming-of-Age Theme Icon
Racism, Poverty, and Alcoholism Theme Icon
Hope, Dreams, and Loss Theme Icon
Drawing, Writing, and Junior’s Cartoons Theme Icon
Junior decides that the biggest difference between Indians and white people is the number of deaths they experience; he’s been to forty-two funerals in his... (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;... (full context)