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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


Character Analysis

A Penelope For Your Thoughts

Penelope is the beautiful, perfect blonde girl and Arnold is the new Indian boy. How do they get together? Well, Penelope does want to stick it to her racist dad Earl... but also Arnold and Penelope actually have a good deal in common.

Penelope and Junior are both dreamers (Chapter 15). Like Arnold, Penelope wants to leave Reardan with its "small ideas" and "small dreams" (15.87). She wants to see the world and all of its wonders. She longs to go to Stanford University and study architecture, to create something beautiful and memorable:

"Arnold," she said one day after school, "I hate this little town. It's so small, too small. Everything about it is small. The people here have small ideas. Small dreams. They all want to marry each other and live here forever."

"What do you want to do?" I asked.

"I want to leave as soon as I can. I think I was born with a suitcase."

Yeah, she talked like that. All big and goofy and dramatic. I wanted to make fun of her, but she was just so earnest. (15.87-15.90)

Arnold relates to this in a big way, as he loves to draw and also wants to leave home (the reservation).

Still, there are complications to their relationship as well. The way in which Junior views her is one dimensional and a bit simplistic. He really loves to stare at her—she is an object of beauty for him (Chapter 15). He idealizes her to a certain extent. At one point he compares her to a "work of art" (16.1). He also seems to be super into her whiteness:

So she was all white on white on white, like the most perfect kind of vanilla dessert cake you've ever seen. I wanted to be her chocolate topping. (16.2-16.6)

What do you think: do they have the workings of a good relationship?