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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

Literature and Writing Theme

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a novel that explores the many different relationships people have to literature and writing. For Arnold, writing and drawing become a means of reaching out and connecting to others. He refers to his drawings, after all, as little "life boats" (1.56). For Gordy, books and knowledge have a way of expanding the world into a place of infinite possibility (Chapter 12). On the other hand, for Mary, reading and writing romance novels provide an escape from her existence on the reservation (Chapter 5). Similarly, Rowdy reads cheesy comic books in order to live a whole different life where people are happy and things are all sunshine and lollipops (3.114). Which kinds of relationships are the most positive, do you think? What kind of a relationship do you have to books?

Questions About Literature and Writing

  1. Why does Arnold draw cartoons? Why does Rowdy like comic books?
  2. What is the relationship between words and text in this novel? What do Arnold's cartoons tell us that his words don't?
  3. Why do Gordy and Arnold get "boners" in the library?
  4. How is Mary's relationship to reading and writing different from Arnold's? Why does she hide her stories? Why do you think she likes romance novels so much?
  5. Why does Arnold relate to the play Medea?
  6. Why does Arnold think that Tolstoy is wrong?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Reading and writing can become a way to escape from the world (such as Mary's romance novels), a way to expand the world (like Gordy's view of the library), or a way to connect with others in the world (the way Arnold views his drawings).

Arnold's love of reading and writing fill him with a joy for life, learning, and knowledge that helps him through his darkest moments – and gives him the strength to leave the reservation.

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