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Themes

Though our narrator Arnold Spirit is only fourteen years of age, he is confronted with the death of his loved ones over and over and over again. For Arnold, death is pretty much relentless, and comes knocking at his family's door time after time. With bodies piling up left and right in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Arnold finds that death is a very hard thing to cope with to cope with – especially when it is senseless. That is, the death Arnold is confronted with is primarily the result of poverty or alcoholism.

Despite all of this, Arnold must learn to carry on. Arnold does this by focusing on life and the joy that it brings. (Note for example the lists he makes in Chapter 24).

Questions About Mortality

  1. Why does Arnold's father kill his dog Oscar? How did this make you feel?
  2. Why are there so many deaths on the reservation? What is the root cause?
  3. After Arnold loses his grandmother and Eugene, he becomes depressed. How does he find his joy again? Why is joy so important for Junior?
  4. Rowdy blames Arnold for Mary's death. Do you?
  5. Why does Arnold sometimes laugh when really, really bad things happen?

Chew on This

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

Though we may face death in our lives, we must find the joy in our life – and carry on. We cannot give up or give in.

Death may be a part of life, but senseless and preventable deaths – such as those caused by poverty or alcoholism – are the greatest tragedy. They cause needless pain and suffering.

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