The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
How we cite our quotes:
Gordy gave me this book by a Russian dude named Tolstoy, who wrote: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Well, I hate to argue with a Russian genius, but Tolstoy didn't know Indians. And he didn't know that all Indian families are unhappy for the same exact reason: the fricking booze.
Yep, so let me pour a drink for Tolstoy and let him think hard about the true definition of unhappy families. (27.11-27.12)
Arnold experiences a series of devastating losses: his grandmother, his Dad's best friend Eugene, and his sister. As all of these deaths are related to alcohol, we begin to see just how destructive life on the reservation can be. Has alcohol destroyed Arnold's family? His home? His reservation? Why, according to Junior, is Tolstoy wrong?
"It's all your fault," he said.
"What's my fault?" I asked.
"Your sister is dead because you left us. You killed her."
That made me stop laughing. I suddenly felt like I might never laugh again.
Rowdy was right.
I had killed my sister.
Well, I didn't kill her.
But she only got married so quickly and left the rez because I had left the rez first. She was only living in Montana in a cheap trailer house because I had gone to school in Reardan. She had burned to death because I had decided that I wanted to spend my life with white people. (27.191-27.198)
Rowdy blames Arnold for Mary's death, and Arnold follows suit. Still, would it have been better if Mary had never left home at all? Is living in a basement better than no life at all? Also, did Mary really leave the reservation in the same way that Arnold did? Did she also decide to spend her life with white people?
Reservations were meant to be prisons, you know? Indians were supposed to move onto reservations and die. We were supposed to disappear.
But somehow or another, Indians have forgotten that reservations were meant to be death camps.
I wept because I was the only one who was brave and crazy enough to leave the rez. I was the only one with enough arrogance. (29.26-29.28)
We see here that Wellpinit is both a home and a prison for Arnold. He views the reservation as a place meant to trap Indians and to wipe them out of existence. Though Arnold leaves the reservation – a place he calls a "death camp" – he still weeps. Why?