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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian


by Sherman Alexie

The Geometry Book

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Moldy Oldies

Arnold finds his mother's name written inside of a geometry book and throws the book straight at his teacher Mr. P (4.52-4.58). While this might sound kind of cute, it's actually anything but. It's horrible—the school system is so strapped for cash that they're using textbooks that are thirty years out of date:

My school and my tribe are so poor and sad that we have to study from the same dang books our parents studied from. That is absolutely saddest thing in the world.

And let me tell you, that old, old, old decrepit geometry book hit my heart with the force of a nuclear bomb. My hopes and dreams floated up in a mushroom cloud. What do you do when the world has declared nuclear war on you? (4.57-4.58)

The book stands for the systemic poverty on the reservation and the way in which the school sets incredibly low expectations for their students. If the math books are more than a quarter of a century old, think of what their science labs look like. Or their extracurricular programs. Or their library. Or any of the amenities that help students succeed.

The book is a catalyst for change. By throwing the book, Arnold is fighting back. He is rejecting what the school offers its students for their education. And hey—it gets attention. Because of his book-lobbing maneuver, Mr. P tells Junior that he might have a brighter future over in Reardan.

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