What You Pawn I Will Redeem

by

Sherman Alexie

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Jackson Jackson Character Analysis

Jackson is a homeless Spokane American Indian man living on the streets of Seattle. He is an alcoholic with an unspecified mental illness, and before he ended up homeless, he dropped out of college, was married a few times, and had a couple of kids. Jackson believes that being homeless is the one thing he’s been most successful at in life. The story revolves around his 24-hour journey to earn the $1,000 he needs in order to buy his grandmother’s powwow regalia (which was stolen from her 50 years prior) back from a pawnbroker. Jackson belongs to the sizeable community of homeless American Indians who live on the streets of Seattle, and it’s with them that Jackson maintains a sense of belonging and family—although by the end of the story, each American Indian that he’s met along the way has disappeared. While Jackson is often highly suspicious of white society, he repeatedly praises the white people he encounters throughout the day and believes that they are both fair and genuine in their attempts to help him buy the regalia. Jackson comes to view the task of earning the regalia back as quest that he must complete for himself—to him, the regalia is a way of connecting with his late grandmother and, by extension, the cultural traditions that died with her. While he manages to come into some money in a variety of different ways, each time he has money he can’t help but spend it (usually on food or alcohol) or give it away to others. At the end of his 24-hour quest, Jackson has five dollars in his pocket, which is exactly how much he had when his quest began. The pawnbroker ends up giving Jackson the regalia for free, which Jackson views as a grand and generous offer, even though the regalia rightfully belonged to him all along. At the end of the story, Jackson wears the regalia and, in front of stunned onlookers, dances in the middle of the street, feeling that he has become his grandmother.

Jackson Jackson Quotes in What You Pawn I Will Redeem

The What You Pawn I Will Redeem quotes below are all either spoken by Jackson Jackson or refer to Jackson Jackson. 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

One day you have a home and the next you don’t, but I’m not going to tell you my particular reasons for being homeless, because it’s my secret story, and Indians have to work hard to keep secrets from hungry white folks.

Related Characters: Jackson Jackson (speaker)
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

Probably none of this interests you. I probably don’t interest you much. Homeless Indians are everywhere in Seattle. We’re common and boring, and you walk right on by us, with maybe a look of anger or disgust or even sadness at the terrible fate of the noble savage.

Related Characters: Jackson Jackson (speaker)
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

If you put Junior and me next to each other, he’s the Before Columbus Arrived Indian, and I’m the After Columbus Arrived Indian. I am living proof of the horrible damage that colonialism has done to us Skins. But I’m not going to let you know how scared I sometimes get of history and its ways. I’m a strong man, and I know that silence is the best way of dealing with white folks.

Related Characters: Jackson Jackson (speaker), Junior
Related Symbols: The Powwow Regalia
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

I set the crumpled Lincoln on the countertop. The pawnbroker studied it.

“Is that the same five dollars from yesterday?”

“No, it’s different.”

He thought about the possibilities.

“Did you work hard for this money?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

Related Characters: Jackson Jackson (speaker), The Pawnbroker (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Five-Dollar Bills
Page Number: 193-194
Explanation and Analysis:

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:
7:00 P.M. Quotes

“Thank you,” I said and gave her one of the bills.

“I can’t take that,” she said. “It’s your money.”

“No, it’s tribal. It’s an Indian thing. When you win, you’re supposed to share with your family.”

“I’m not your family.”

“Yes, you are.”

She smiled. She kept the money.

Related Characters: Jackson Jackson (speaker), Kay (speaker)
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:
6:00 A.M. Quotes

“And somebody beat the hell out of you,” he said. “You remember who?”

“Mr. Grief and I went a few rounds.”

“It looks like Mr. Grief knocked you out.”

“Mr. Grief always wins.”

Related Characters: Officer Williams (speaker), Jackson Jackson (speaker)
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

“You Indians. How the hell do you laugh so much? I just picked your ass off the railroad tracks, and you’re making jokes. Why the hell do you do that?”

“The two funniest tribes I’ve ever been around are Indians and Jews, so I guess that says something about the inherent humor of genocide.”

Related Characters: Officer Williams (speaker), Jackson Jackson (speaker)
Page Number: 186-187
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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Jackson Jackson Character Timeline in What You Pawn I Will Redeem

The timeline below shows where the character Jackson Jackson 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
Jackson explains that homelessness is something that can happen overnight. It happened to him, but he... (full context)
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Jackson is a Spokane Indian, Interior Salish. He grew up in Spokane, Washington before moving to... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Jackson considers that maybe none of this is interesting, since there are lots of homeless Indians... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Jackson’s “regular crew” are Rose of Sharon and Junior, who are also homeless Indians. Even if... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Today, Jackson, Rose of Sharon, and Junior are panhandling at Pike Place Market. After a couple hours,... (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... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
...Junior starts to tell the pawnbroker that the regalia has been missing for 50 years, Jackson tells Junior that it’s his family’s story, so he should be the one to tell... (full context)
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
The pawnbroker asks for Jackson’s name, and he explains that his first and last name are both Jackson. While the... (full context)
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
His 24 hours allotted by the pawnbroker have passed, so Jackson says goodbye to the Aleut cousins. Later, he hears that the cousins waded off a... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Jackson is on the verge of tears and feels like he will die if he doesn’t... (full context)
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
The pawnbroker asks Jackson if he has the money, and Jackson asks, hopefully, if his price is still the... (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... (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... (full context)
1:00 P.M.
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
With the $20 from the pawnbroker, and the $5 from their panhandling, Jackson, Rose of Sharon, and Junior head over to the 7-Eleven and buy three “bottles of... (full context)
2:00 P.M.
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Jackson wakes up after briefly passing out from the alcohol. Rose of Sharon is gone, and... (full context)
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
At the wharf, Jackson encounters three Aleut cousins who are looking out over the bay and crying. Jackson explains... (full context)
3:00 P.M.
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Jackson walks back to Junior, who is still passed out. Jackson checks to see that Junior... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Surrounded by the smell of smoke and vomit, Jackson ruminates on his own theory that her cancer could have leaked out from her broken... (full context)
4:00 P.M.
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Jackson asks Big Boss at Real Change for 1,430 papers on loan. Confused, the Big Boss... (full context)
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Big Boss doubts that Jackson will be able to sell so many papers, as most vendors only earn $30 in... (full context)
5:00 P.M.
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Jackson stands outside a terminal and tries to sell the papers to commuters, but he’s discouraged... (full context)
6:00 P.M.
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Jackson walks back to Junior with only a dollar remaining. Junior is still passed out, so... (full context)
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Jackson is still sitting next to Junior and laughing to himself at the memory of this... (full context)
7:00 P.M.
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Jackson spends his $2.50 on a cigar and two scratch lottery tickets, figuring that if he... (full context)
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
On the third ticket, Jackson wins $100 and walks back into the store to redeem his cash. As Kay hands... (full context)
8:00 P.M.
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Jackson walks back to Junior, excited to share his good news. However, just like Rose of... (full context)
9:00 P.M.
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Feeling lonely, Jackson decides to walk to the all-Indian bar, Big Heart’s. He explains that its unknown “how... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Jackson doesn’t know anyone inside the bar but he remarks that Indians treat one another like... (full context)
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Honey Boy is a two-spirit, and Irene warns that he can seduce Jackson with his magic. Jackson insists that he’s in love with Kay only. The other Indians... (full context)
10:00 P.M.
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Irene leads Jackson into the women’s restroom and promptly puts her hand in his pants. Jackson describes Irene... (full context)
Midnight
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Incredibly drunk, Jackson wakes up and finds himself alone at the bar. He doesn’t realize that he blacked... (full context)
2:00 A.M.
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Jackson asks after Irene and Honey boy again, and frustrated, the bartender reiterates that they left... (full context)
4:00 A.M.
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Four hours later, Jackson wakes up and is surprised that he’s walking behind a warehouse. He has no idea... (full context)
6:00 A.M.
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
After only two hours of sleep, Jackson is woken up with a kick to the ribs by a police officer named Officer... (full context)
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Officer Williams remarks that Jackson has never acted so stupidly, and Jackson explains that his grief over his grandmother’s death... (full context)
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Officer Williams puts Jackson in the back of his police cruiser to take him to the detox center. Jackson... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Officer Williams asks Jackson why someone smart like him is on the streets. Jackson replies that he’ll tell the... (full context)
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Jackson and Officer Williams drive past the city’s missions, where homeless men and women stare up... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Jackson explains that his grandfather was killed by his brother while responding to a domestic violence... (full context)
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
At the detox center Jackson won’t go inside because they’ll keep him a day, and he’ll miss the deadline to... (full context)
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Racism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Jackson tells Officer Williams that he believes in magic, but Williams knows that he’ll more likely... (full context)
8:00 A.M.
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Back on the wharf, the three Aleut cousins are still waiting for their boat. Jackson asks if they’ve seen it yet; they’ve seen a lot of boats, but not theirs.... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
Jackson asks the Aleut cousins if they know any songs. They tell him that they know... (full context)
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Death and Grief  Theme Icon
The Aleuts ask Jackson what he’s wishing and hoping for, and he tells them that he wishes his grandmother... (full context)
10:00 A.M.
Native American Culture and Identity Theme Icon
The Aleut cousins run out of songs, and the four sit in silence again. Jackson observes that “Indians are good at silence.” He wants to hear more songs, but the... (full context)
11:00 A.M.
Money, Capitalism, and Morality Theme Icon
Jackson and the Aleut cousins go to a diner called the Big Kitchen that serves homeless... (full context)