This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona: Stereotypes

1356 words - 5 pages

“This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona” discusses the physical and mental journey of Victor, a Native American man in the state of Washington, as he goes to Phoenix, Arizona to claim his father’s remains and his savings account. While on this journey, Victor learns about himself, his father, and his Indian culture with the help of his estranged friend, Thomas Builds-the–Fire. The author, Sherman Alexie, plays on the stereotypes of Native Americans through the characters of Victor and Thomas. While Thomas is portrayed as the more traditional and “good” Native American, Victor comes across as the “bad” Native American. Through the use of this binary relationship, Alexie is able to illustrate the transformation of these characters as they reconcile with each other, and break out of these stereotypes in the process.
In “This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona,” Alexie creates a story that captures the common stereotypes of Native Americans. For instance, in the story the narrator states, “Who does have money on a reservation, except the cigarette and fireworks salespeople?” (Alexie). This quotation shows that the narrator addresses the idea that all Native Americans must own businesses that sell fireworks and/ or cigarettes in order to be successful. In this example, Victor is shown to not identify with the Native Americans because he does not pursue the same job opportunities as many Native Americans do. Victor's character is used as a contrast to the stereotypes that , there he represents reality. Another instance in which the author incorporates a stereotype about Native Americans is when Thomas-Builds-the-Fire first makes conversation with Victor. Thomas-Builds-the-Fire informs Victor about the news of Victor's father's death, “I heard it on the wind. I heard it from the birds. I felt it in the sunlight. Also, your mother was just here crying” (Alexie). Here, by talking about the “wind,” “birds,”and “sunlight,” Alexie plays on the stereotype that Indians are nature-oriented (Alexie).
Stereotypes are shown in the story through the binary depictions of Victor and Thomas Builds-the-Fire. The most important binary that is emphasized by Alexie is the stereotypes that Victor is “bad,”while Thomas is good. Victor is portrayed as the negative views of Indians. “Victor was really drunk and beat up Thomas up for no reason at all” (Alexie). In this situation, Victor is shown as the typical drunk Native American. Other stereotypes that are presented by Victor are that Indians are lazy when he fails to be persistent to try to get more money to get to Phoenix. When Victor beats up Thomas as a teenager, this depicts Victor as the bloody savage. Thomas Builds-the-fire, on the other hand, is portrayed as the more positive view of Native Americans. The romantic portrayals of Native Americans include the idea that they are noble savages. Indians are characterized as gentle and connected to the world. For example, instead of being captured as a...

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