Study Guide

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Chapter 17

By Sherman Alexie

Chapter 17

Dance, Dance, Dance

  • Junior makes the trip between Reardan and Wellpinit regularly and begins to feel like a "part-time" Indian (17.1).
  • At school, Junior pretends his family has more money than they actually do. He hides the fact that he's poor (see: fig 17.1). Unfortunately, lies like that don't last for long.
  • In December, Arnold takes Penelope to the Winter Formal, though he only has five dollars to pull the whole thing off.
  • With no money for gas or new clothes, Arnold meets Penelope at the gym in one of his Dad's old polyester suits (fig 17.2). Fortunately, this just delights Penelope who thinks the look is super retro. The couple dance the night away.
  • At the end of the night, a group of upperclassmen invite Arnold and Penelope to go to a diner to have pancakes. Even though he has only five dollars, he agrees. Penelope's father lets her go, but really only because Roger (who is becoming Arnold's friend) is driving the two of them.
  • At the diner Arnold goes hog wild and orders tons of food for Penelope and himself. He figures it's his last meal before his execution, so why not?
  • Later in the bathroom, Roger asks Junior about basketball, and then about money. Does he need to borrow some? He's like a big jock deus ex machina. Roger sweeps in to loan Junior some cash to cover the diner tab. Close call.
  • As Penelope and Arnold say their goodbyes for the night, she asks him if he is poor (fig 17.4). He says yes. Does she march out of his life? No. She kisses him on the cheek.
  • When Arnold admits to Penelope that he hitchhikes home most days, she cries tears of sympathy.
  • Roger drives the two home.
  • Arnold concludes the chapter with an uplifting thought: "If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing" (17.134).