In Sherman Alexie’s novel, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, the readers get a sense of who he is and how he views things through the character, Victor. Throughout history, Native Americans have been subjugated by the white man. Through prejudice, domination, false promises, and betrayal by the dominant culture had impacted and shaped the lifestyle of the modern Indians. As Victor and his people yield to the addiction of alcohol and devastation of poverty and unemployment, the loss of culture, tradition, and identity is evident. As a result, many Native Americans have a different perspective of the world, including the author.
In the short story, “Imagining the Reservation,” we are given an insight on how Alexie apprehends the true nature of things in the reservation. He says, “Survival equals Anger X Imagination. Imagination is the only weapon on the reservation” (p.150), meaning that he believes his people have to have those two factors in order to keep their character and traditions alive in situations where they may become extinct. Alexie believes that Native Americans should be emotionally and psychologically ready for the burden that’s been placed upon them.
Due to the history of their people, many Natives experience a great lost. The Americans annexation of their land causes them to feel powerless and naïve to a certain extent. For instance, the Americans coaxed the Indians into giving up their land for a trade of beans. Considering the fact that Indians don’t have the same values like the whites, they agreed without any hesitation. With so many hardships that were presented to them, the Indians have a difficult time to digest the values and purposes of their culture that has been passed down by many generations. Because of this, frustration and anger arise, which lead them no choice but to imagine what could or should’ve happened. Therefore, Alexie believes that the only way the people in the reservation can survive is to create illusions of how they want their lives to be.
Not only did imagination help the Native Americans get through their unfortunate lives, but they also believe in storytelling. Storytelling is one of the ways that many Indians do to preserve their traditions- their past. It is their heritage to tell stories of the past for entertainment, teaching, and for passing down old knowledge and wisdom. In this case, Thomas Builds the Fire serves as a verbal source of history, wisdom, moral instruction, and literature. He would tell his stories throughout the book and in one of them he says: “‘There were these two Indians boys who wanted to be warriors. But it was too late to be warriors in the old way…’”(p.63). Here Thomas talks about how two Indian boys broke the law and got away with it. It shows that Indians can do it, that they can make it out of the reservation and not follow the American system. Thomas’s story inspires his people, including Victor, to believe that they can get out of the sticky...