What You Pawn I Will Redeem


Sherman Alexie

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What You Pawn I Will Redeem: 7:00 P.M. Summary & Analysis

Jackson spends his $2.50 on a cigar and two scratch lottery tickets, figuring that if he wins the $500 cash prize on both he’ll have enough for his grandmother’s powwow regalia. Jackson is in love with Kay, the cashier at the Korean grocery, and tells her that he loves her every time he’s there. He knows he is too old for her and says he can only dream. She gives him permission to dream so long as the dreams don’t involve sex or kissing, and he agrees. Jackson leaves the store and walks to a park where he smokes his cigar and scratches off his lottery tickets. He loses on the first card, but wins a free ticket on the second, so he walks back to the grocery and redeems his prize.
Like alcohol and the cigar, Jackson’s dreams about a relationship with Kay are an attempt to escape the brutal reality of his situation. The lottery tickets Jackson purchases with the little money he has represent how success in capitalist society often depends on luck.
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On the third ticket, Jackson wins $100 and walks back into the store to redeem his cash. As Kay hands him the money, their hands touch, and Jackson describes that this feels “electric and constant.” Jackson hands Kay one of his new $20 bills and explains that Indians always share prizes with their families. Kay says that she isn’t Jackson’s family and tries to reject the offer, but Jackson insists, and she keeps the money. He walks out of the store into the cold night with $80.
Jackson falls into his familiar pattern of earning and immediately losing money, but this time that loss is tied to an American Indian cultural practice: American Indians always share a windfall with family, and he considers anyone important to him family. This represents how American Indian culture is itself at odds with capitalism and what is required for capitalist success.
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