Confessions, revenge, and forgiveness are central to the plot of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Junior decides to transfer to the school in Reardan because of a conversation with Mr. P., a white teacher whose nose he has broken by throwing a textbook across the room. Mr. P. forgives Junior for breaking his nose, but asks for forgiveness in return: he has been part of a system that forced Indians to give up, and he sees encouraging Junior to free himself as a kind of atonement. Later, Junior’s grandmother, in her dying words, asks her family to forgive the drunk driver who killed her. Her belief in tolerance, love, and forgiveness is presented as her “greatest gift” and a direct contrast to racist hatred; according to Junior, tolerance is a trait that Indians lost as a result of oppression by whites. Not all confessions deserve to be met with forgiveness, however: at Junior’s grandmother’s funeral, a white billionaire named Ted makes a “confession” that the Indians meet with ridicule. His theatrical—and patronizing—attempt to “return” a powwow outfit that was clearly made by another tribe reveals his own fetishism and cultural insensitivity much more than any real attempt to make reparations.
Most importantly, one of the main conflicts in the novel is Junior’s search for forgiveness from his best friend Rowdy, who feels betrayed by Junior’s decision to leave the reservation and hates him as a result. Although each boy tries to get revenge on the other—Rowdy gives Junior a concussion during a basketball game, and Junior humiliates him at their next game in retaliation—their friendship is finally restored when they play together without keeping score, metaphorically supporting and forgiving each other without trying to keep track of wrongs. Junior’s “absolutely true diary” can be read as his own confession, which closes with his hopes and prayers that Rowdy, his family, and his tribe “would someday forgive me for leaving them … that I would someday forgive myself for leaving them.”
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Confessions, Revenge, and Forgiveness Quotes in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
We had defeated the enemy! We had defeated the champions! We were David who’d thrown a stone into the brain of Goliath!
And then I realized something.
I realized that my team, the Reardan Indians, was Goliath.
“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.”
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.