The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Junior Polatkin’s Wild West Show Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Junior Polatkin has recurring dreams of being a gunfighter named Sonny Six-Gun. In his dreams he speaks Spokane and guns down legends like Wild Bill Hickok and Billy the Kid. Junior is “the only Indian” at Gonzaga University in Spokane. It is a small Jesuit school, and “hardly any” of the students are from Spokane, let alone Washington State. It is early December, and Junior, seated in history class, stares at a “beautiful blond woman” in the front of the room. Her name is Lynn, and Junior, after hearing her speak up about “mythologizing the [Wild] West,” falls “nearly in love.” After class, Junior follows Lynn to the cafeteria. He stands to close to her, and she confronts him, asking “what the fuck [he] want[s.]” Junior grows tongue-tied, and stops following her.
Junior’s active imagination and dream life fills in for his isolated existence at college. He feels alone, until he sees a peer in Lynn. His initial advances toward her are not received well, and he remains isolated. Junior, we know, carries the baggage of being “the one who made it out,” after graduating valedictorian of his predominantly white, “farm town” high school. Feelings of loss of community and cultural isolation have then followed him to college and made his life there more difficult.
Themes
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
A few weeks later, it is Christmas break, and Junior has stayed behind in the Gonzaga dorms, where he lives in solitude, checks his mail obsessively, and reads “a book a day.” He doesn’t want to return to the reservation “and endure the insults that would be continually hurled at him.” A few days after Christmas, Junior goes to the mailboxes and finds Lynn there. They formally introduce themselves, and go together to a nearby restaurant.
Junior is caught between two words, and he does not fit into either, so retreats into the realm of dreams, imagination, and storytelling. His chance meeting with Lynn, though, inspires hope within him.
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Lynn tells Junior that she notices he drinks a lot at parties. She asks him if it is “lonely” being the only Indian at the university. Junior is shocked by the personal nature of her questions, but “somehow or other trust[s] Lynn immediately.” Junior imagines that their ongoing, hours-long conversation is one out of a movie. Lynn and Junior flirt, leave the restaurant, and, outside, they kiss.
Even though he seems to connect deeply with Lynn, Junior cannot help framing their interaction as a fantasy and holding it at arm’s length. His kiss with Lynn recalls his first kiss with a white girl when he was younger and in school—and the vision that followed it in which Junior was abandoned by his tribe.
Themes
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
Junior imagines that he and Lynn are starring in a Western; they return to his dorm room, where they have sex. Lynn seems regretful almost immediately, afraid that she’s gotten pregnant and admitting that “she’d just wanted some company.” Lynn misses her next two periods, and then confronts Junior with the news that she is indeed pregnant. Not wanting to get married, have an abortion, or give the child up for adoption, Lynn decides to carry the child and keep it. She cries in Junior’s arms, and he cries too.
Lynn’s almost prophetic feeling that she’s become pregnant indicates her connection to imagination and visions, just as Junior is connected to those things. When she realizes that she is in fact pregnant, she and Junior, rather than finding a sense of love and community in one another, experience instead profound isolation.
Themes
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
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Lynn gives birth to a boy “with dark skin and blue eyes.” She names him Sean Casey, and he talks at one and reads at three. Junior, however, “only learn[s these] details through the mail, random phone calls, and timed visits.” Lynn’s parents “refuse” to acknowledge that their grandson has “Indian blood,” but Lynn reads the baby books about Indians and teaches him Spokane words. Junior drops out of school a year after Lynn leaves to have the baby. He calls Lynn to tell her and, though she begs him not to return to the reservation, he does anyway. As he walks down the highway, he “want[s] to imagine walking into the sunset, into a happy ending,” but he knows that “all along the road there [are] reservation drive-ins showing a new and painful sequel to the first act of his life.”
Junior continues to experience deep isolation; he is kept from his child because of Lynn’s racist, discriminatory parents. Unable to succeed in school, Junior returns to the reservation, where he will be isolated from his tribal community because of the journey he took in “the first act of his life.” Junior imagines his future as a series of “painful sequels,” indicating the deep pain he feels within—both cultural and personal. This also echoes pessimistic ending of the final story of Victor’s narrative arc, in which he feels that he always knows how his dreams will end.
Themes
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
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