What You Pawn I Will Redeem

by

Sherman Alexie

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Agnes was Jackson’s grandmother. Although she died of breast cancer in 1979, years before the story takes place, she and her powwow regalia are in many ways the heart of the story. Each of Agnes’s family members have different theories as to where her cancer may have come from, but each of their theories are universally tied back to violence or heartbreak. She died when Jackson was only 14, but she is deeply important to him and his grief for her is a fresh as if she’d died only yesterday. Jackson views Agnes and the powwow regalia that was stolen from her as connections to his Spokane American Indian roots and culture. He mourns the fact that he never got to see her dance in a powwow, feeling that when she died, so did a piece of his cultural heritage. Jackson doesn’t have many memories of his grandmother, but one of her stories that remains with him is about the time that she met a Maori man when she was working abroad as a military nurse. The two of them discussed how indigenous people worldwide are oppressed by white society. At the end of the story, Jackson gets the regalia back and wears it while dancing in the street, a moment that he feels symbolically connects him with Agnes.

Agnes Quotes in What You Pawn I Will Redeem

The What You Pawn I Will Redeem quotes below are all either spoken by Agnes or refer to Agnes. 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:
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of What You Pawn I Will Redeem published in 2004.
Noon Quotes

I knew that the solitary yellow bead was a part of me. I knew that I was the yellow bead in part. Outside, I wrapped myself in my grandmother’s regalia and breathed her in. I stepped off the sidewalk and into the intersection. Pedestrians stopped. Cars stopped. The city stopped. They all watched me dance with my grandmother. I was my grandmother, dancing.

Related Characters: Jackson Jackson (speaker), Agnes
Related Symbols: The Powwow Regalia
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:
3:00 P.M. Quotes

I wondered if my grandmother’s cancer had started when somebody stole her powwow regalia. Maybe the cancer started in her broken heart and then leaked out into her breasts. I know it’s crazy, but I wondered if I could bring my grandmother back to life if I bought back her regalia.

Related Characters: Jackson Jackson (speaker), Agnes
Related Symbols: The Powwow Regalia
Page Number: 175-176
Explanation and Analysis:
6:00 P.M. Quotes

“It’s funny, isn’t it?” he asked.

“What’s funny?”

“How we brown people are killing other brown people so white people will remain free.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

“Well, sometimes I think of it that way. And other times, I think of it the way they want me to think of it. I get confused.”

Related Characters: Agnes (speaker)
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:
8:00 A.M. Quotes

The Aleuts sang their strange and beautiful songs. I listened. They sang about my grandmother and their grandmothers. They were lonely for the cold and snow. I was lonely for everybody.

Related Characters: Jackson Jackson (speaker), The Aleut Cousins, Agnes
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:
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Agnes Character Timeline in What You Pawn I Will Redeem

The timeline below shows where the character Agnes appears in What You Pawn I Will Redeem. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Noon
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
...window of the pawnshop is an old powwow-dance regalia that Jackson immediately recognizes as his grandmother’s. It was stolen from her 50 years prior. He’s never seen the regalia in person,... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Inside the pawn shop, Jackson tells the old white pawnbroker that the regalia is his grandmother’s, which was stolen 50 years ago. The pawnbroker is suspicious, which Jackson understands, but he... (full context)
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
The pawnbroker steps into the back room, where he’s moved Jackson’s grandmother’s powwow regalia from the front window. He holds the regalia out to Jackson and tells... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Jackson walks outside with his grandmother’s powwow regalia in hand. He knows that he is a part of the hidden yellow... (full context)
3:00 P.M.
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
...around in his pockets and finds a cigarette, which he smokes while thinking about his grandmother, Agnes. She died from breast cancer when Junior was only 14 years old, and Jackson’s... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
...stolen. If he earns back the regalia, he might also be able to bring his grandmother back from the dead. He admits that this thought is crazy, but it nonetheless inspires... (full context)
4:00 P.M.
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
...he needs to make so much money so quickly. Jackson explains the story of his grandmother’s powwow regalia, and Big Boss suggests that they call the police instead. But Jackson is... (full context)
6:00 P.M.
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
...shoes and finds $1.50, which he takes. He sits beside Junior and daydreams about his grandmother’s stories about being a military nurse in Australia during World War II. Once, she treated... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Agnes told the Maori man that many American Indians were fighting in the war, including her... (full context)
7:00 P.M.
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
6:00 A.M.
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
...that Jackson has never acted so stupidly, and Jackson explains that his grief over his grandmother’s death has driven him to this low. Sympathetic, Officer Williams asks when she died and... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
...he can remember his grandfather, but Jackson doesn’t remember much besides the funeral where his grandmother had to be dragged away from the grave. Officer Williams doesn’t know what to say,... (full context)
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
...because they’ll keep him a day, and he’ll miss the deadline to buy back his grandmother’s powwow regalia. Officer Williams says that the right way to go about getting the stolen... (full context)
8:00 A.M.
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
...them, and they sit in silence for a long time. He starts daydreaming about his grandmother again and feels sad that he’d never seen her dance in her regalia. He wishes... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
...Jackson what he’s wishing and hoping for, and he tells them that he wishes his grandmother were alive. The Aleuts tell him that every song is about that wish, so Jackson... (full context)