Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?
Absolutely True Basketball Diaries
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian ends in Chapter 30 with a one-on-one basketball game between Arnold and Rowdy. Their conversation during the play has a whole lot to do with reconciling the two ways that Arnold sees himself and with finding a brand new identity that both he and Rowdy can accept.
Rowdy, weirdly, is actually of some help. Rowdy tells Arnold that he's been reading a book about "old-time Indians, about how we used to be nomadic." Rowdy continues:
"So I looked up nomadic in the dictionary, and it means people who move around, who keep moving, in search of food and water and grazing land."
"That sounds about right."
"Well, the thing is, I don't think Indians are nomadic anymore. Most Indians, anyway."
"No, we're not," I said.
"I'm not nomadic," Rowdy said. "Hardly anybody on this rez is nomadic. Except for you. You're the nomadic one."
"No, I'm serious. I always knew you were going to leave. I always knew you were going to leave us behind and travel the world. I had this dream about you a few months ago. You were standing on the Great Wall of China. You looked happy. And I was happy for you." (30.176-30.184)
Now what is so significant about Rowdy calling Arnold a "nomad"?
Well, for starters, being a "nomad" just like the old timey Indians would make it so that leaving home wouldn't conflict with Arnold's sense of himself. He could move off the rez and still be an Indian. In fact, as Rowdy explains, Indians have always left home. So, actually, Arnold's departure for greener pastures would actually be a totally Indian thing to do.
What's also important here is that Rowdy is beginning to accept Arnold's dreams—and to encourage him to realize them.
Are you touched by this? Not going to lie—we got a little mosty-eyed. After all the bad blood between these two, Rowdy is not only forgiving Arnold, he is actually happy for him. As we know, the reconciliation between these two will allow Arnold to be happy for himself.