Essay Topic: A reflective essay on the theme of Development of Identity in the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
I know its long, so thanks to whoever took the time to read it. Also I am stuck on my concluding paragraph, any help is appreciated.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman is a fictional novel that was both insightful and amusing. The main character, Arnold Spirit Jr, is an Indian boy suffering from the after effects of Hydrocephalus. He lives on a poverty stricken Indian reserve, home to drunks, addicts and abusers. Due to his medical conditions he suffers from multiple physical deformities that make him a prime target for harassment. However, those are the least of his problems. When he leaves the reservation and transfers to Reardan in search of hope, he is faced with an identity crisis. Is he Arnold the only Indian attending
Reardan, or Junior the traitor who abandoned his tribe? The theme of development of one's identity is evident in this book and in reality.
On the first day of school at Reardan, Junior introduces himself as "Junior" to a beautiful white girl named Penelope. However, when the teacher takes attendance he is called by the name "Arnold Spirit". Penelope was a little annoyed that Junior lied and asked him to explain himself, which he did: "My name is Junior," I said. "And my name is Arnold. It's Junior and Arnold. I'm both." I felt like two different people inside of one body. No, I felt like a magician slicing myself in half, with Junior living on the north side of the Spokane River and Arnold living on the south. (Alexie 60).This passage marks the beginning of Junior's struggle with identity. He states that he feels like two different people living in one body. He compares his situation using a smile; splitting himself in half like a magician. He is Junior back at the reservation and Arnold when he attends school at Reardan. Clearly, it can be seen that Junior is bewildered by this newly risen conflict. From personal experience, I too can relate to Junior's situation. I grew up around a lot of white kids; the majority of my friends were white. When I was told I was white-washed by a white friend, I took pride in it. Another time, an Asian friend said the same, but this time I took offense. I too was confused, I wondered why I took offense when an Asian friend said the same. That marked the beginning of my own personal development with identity. Clearly, the beginning of development of one's identity can be puzzling at first.
A few weeks later, Junior meets Gordy, a boy genius. Like Junior, he is intelligent, and we later find out that he is also a social outcast from his community. With these similarities, they naturally became friends. When Junior explained how his tribe had labelled him a traitor, he expressed his situation using his intelligence and personal experience as an outcast:
"Well, life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community." (Alexie 132)
Gordy explains that everyone is struggling to balance being their true selves and being someone who is accepted by their respective communities. Junior gains a little more insight on his struggle and that he is not alone. Unlike everyone else on the reservation, Junior possesses hope. He not only dreams for a better life for himself, but he takes action to achieve it. By choosing to sacrifice acceptance from his community for his dreams, he is made an outcast in Wellpint but a respected student at Reardan. Personally, I was faced with a similar problem. In middle school, Asians were beginning to embrace their own culture. Having friends in both the white and Asian cliques/communities, I felt lost. Being confused, my solution was to create a balance between the two to allow for acceptance from both. This goes to show, how influential community acceptance is in one's development of identity. For both Junior and I, this was a stage of development where we need to adapt using our resiliency to our own respective situations.
Nearing the end of the book, Junior has been through a plethora of experiences. He befriended and gained the respect of many white kids at Reardan; he discovered that white people are not as perfect as he had believed; he realized his basketball potential; he mourned the loss of his sister, his uncle Eugene, and his grandmother. Through his experiences he came to the conclusion of:
"I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms. And to the tribe of cartoonists. And to the tribe of chronic masturbators. And the tribe of teenage boys. And the tribe of small-town kids. And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners. And the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers. And the tribe of poverty. And the tribe of funeral goers. And the tribe of beloved sons. And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends." (Alexie 217)
In the excerpt above, Junior explains how his ethnicity and race does not define his true self. It is not as simple as being half white or half Indian. He is not only an Indian but a great basketball player, a creative artist, a hard-working bookworm and most importantly a regular teenage boy. Evidently, his identity is developed through his interests, interactions, and experiences; factors that have no link with race and ethnicity. From my own personal experiences and observations, I too have come to my own conclusion that race does not determine identity. People from every race can be kind, funny, religious, athletic, artistic, successful, and intelligent. As my life goes on and my identity continues to develop, I try my best to be myself and avoid judging people upon appearance.
With the stages explained, it is clear the theme of development of identity is present in both the novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and in reality. Junior and I found the beginning of identity development confusing; used our resiliencies to adapt; and came to our own individual conclusions on identity. With the end of the book, comes the end of Junior's identity development. However, for me it will be ongoing...