The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Race Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations for the text follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph); for art and illustrations: (Chapter.Illustration)
I was the only kid, white or Indian, who knew that Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities. And let me tell you, we Indians were the worst of times and those Reardan kids were the best of times.
Those kids were magnificent.
They knew everything.
And they were beautiful.
They were beautiful and smart.
They were beautiful and smart and epic.
They were filled with hope. (7.33-7.39)
Arnold makes a reference to Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, a novel set in London and Paris around the time of the French Revolution. Here, though, the two cities Arnold is talking about are Reardan and Wellpinit. What does each city represent?
Also, do you think Arnold's view of the white kids in Reardan is a little idealized or over the top? How do the students in Reardan (Penelope, for example, or Gordy) see themselves?
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 white 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 mascot.)
Here Arnold sees himself in two ways at once. It's almost as if he is looking through bifocal glasses. Writer W.E.B. DuBois has called this state a "double consciousness."
Yesterday, during a game, Penelope was serving the ball and I watched her like she was a work of art.
She was wearing a white shirt and white shorts, and I could see the outlines of her white bra and white panties.
Her skin was pale white. Milk white. Cloud white.
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)
Staring at his semi-girlfriend, Penelope, Arnold doesn't see her as human so much as a "work of art." He also sees something else that he likes: her whiteness. How many times does Arnold use the word "white" in this description? What do you think "whiteness" has to do with Arnold's attraction to Penelope? Does Arnold fetishize Penelope's whiteness?