The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

by

Sherman Alexie

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Violence, Poverty, and Loss

From the collection’s first story, “Every Little Hurricane,” readers are thrust into a world defined by extreme poverty, casual and tragic violence, and a haunting, pervasive sense of both cultural and personal loss. As Victor watches his uncles Arnold and Adolph fistfight in the middle of an approaching hurricane, he notes how the rise and fall of their violence against one another mirrors the trajectory of the storm—it is unthinking, destructive, and undoubtedly a force…

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Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination

In the face of a ravaged cultural landscape, Alexie stresses in nearly each story the importance of four vital acts to the Native American community of his youth: remembering, witnessing, telling stories, and imagining the future. Many stories take place within characters’ memories, and are constructed so that the characters the reader encounters are not actually present within the action of the narrative but only as memories or distant figures. The tension between action and…

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Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain

Cultural pain and personal pain, in Alexie’s estimation, are inextricably linked. The personal pain his characters experience is, of course, often born of strife between family members, friends, and partners, but Alexie renders his characters’ pain in such a way that highlights its connection to an inherited cultural or generational pain that comes from loss of land, tradition, and agency.

“When children grow up together in poverty, a bond is formed that causes so much…

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Community vs. Isolation

The recurring characters that make up the world of The Lone Ranger and Tonto are often in conflict with their inner selves as well as their community. We see characters again and again at several very different points throughout their life—namely Victor, who functions as a stand-in of sorts for Alexie himself—and come to understand them through several perspectives, disjointed in time, place, and point of view but nonetheless interconnected. The intensity of the…

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Love and Hatred

One review of this collection refers to it as a series of “cultural love stories,” and Alexie himself, in the foreword, writes that “[in] trying to figure out the main topic, the big theme, the overarching idea, the epicenter” of the collection, he arrived at “the sons in this book really love and hate their fathers.” The line between love and hatred—for many of Alexie’s characters, not just the sons and fathers in the text—is…

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