The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Identity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations for the text follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph); for art and illustrations: (Chapter.Illustration)
"You've been fighting since you were born," he said. "You fought off that brain surgery. You fought off those seizures. You fought off all the drunks and drug addicts. You kept your hope. And now, you have to take your hope and go somewhere where other people have hope."
I was starting to understand. He was a math teacher. I had to add my hope to somebody else's hope. I had to multiply my hope.
"Where is hope?" I asked. "Who has hope?"
"Son," Mr. P said. "You're going to find more and more hope the farther and farther you walk away from this sad, sad, sad reservation." (5.163-5.168)
Mr. P comes to visit Arnold during his suspension for throwing the geometry book. Instead of fussing at Arnold, though, Mr. P characterizes Arnold as a "fighter" – as someone who has faced adversity and who, unlike others on the reservation, won't give up.
Why do you think Arnold is so resilient, so hopeful? What does this say about who Arnold really is? Mr. P encourages Arnold to nurture his "hope" by leaving the reservation. Arnold decides to transfer to the Reardan school twenty-two miles away. What would you have done?
They stared at me, the Indian boy with the black eye and swollen nose, my going-away gifts from Rowdy. Those white kids couldn't believe their eyes. They stared at me like I was Bigfoot or a UFO. What was I doing at Reardan, whose mascot was an Indian, thereby making me the only other Indian in town? (8.27)
On his first day at the new school, Arnold sees himself not only through his own eyes, but through the eyes of the other students as well. He realizes that, to them, he's not Junior the weirdo Indian, but he is something foreign and alien – more like "Bigfoot" or a "UFO" than an actual person. (The only other Indian at the Reardan school is, after all, the stinking mascot.)
In this sense, Arnold starts seeing himself two ways at once: the way he sees himself and the way the white kids see him. It's almost as if he is looking through bifocal glasses. In his writing on African Americans, writer W.E.B. Du Bois has called this way of seeing oneself a "double consciousness."
And then I felt smaller because the teacher was taking roll and he called out my name name.
"Arnold Spirit," the teacher said.
No, he yelled it.
He was so big and muscular that his whisper was probably a scream.
"Here," I said as quietly as possible. My whisper was only a whisper.
"Speak up," the teacher said.
"Here," I said.
"My name is Mr. Grant," he said.
"I'm here, Mr. Grant." (8.60-8.68)
Ah, the eternal question: "What's in a name?" After eight chapters, we finally learn the full name of, Junior, our lovable narrator. He is (drum roll, please) Arnold Spirit, Jr. Yet why does the novel so long to tell us Arnold's full name? Did he have to leave the reservation first before we could find this out? Why? How does leaving home change how Arnold sees himself? Why does Arnold feel so "small" when the teacher calls out his "name name"?